Inquiry blames Cyprus president for deadly blast
Nicosia: Cyprus' president is mainly to blame for events that led to the explosion of seized Iranian munitions that killed 13 people and caused a political and economic crisis on the island, the head of an official inquiry said on Monday.
Polys Polyviou says Dimitris Christofias was primarily responsible for the "inadequacy, negligence and carelessness" that led to the July 11 blast at a naval base.
The explosion wrecked Cyprus' main power station and stoked fears and sapped public trust in Christofias' presidency amid calls for him to resign.
"My conclusion is that the main responsibility for the tragedy weighs the president of the republic," Polyviou told a televised news conference to present the public inquiry's nonbinding findings.
Christofias had earlier testified at the inquiry hearings that he was never told by subordinates just how dangerous the munitions were and denied any personal responsibility.
But Polyviou said Christofias had "very serious personal responsibilities," adding that he should have known about the dangers involved with the munitions and showed "inexcusable negligence which resulted in the death of 13 people."
The munitions — mostly gunpowder and some nitroglycerine stored in 85 containers — were seized in Feb. 2009 from a Cypriot-flagged ship suspected of transporting it from Iran to Palestinian militants in Gaza through Syria. The United Nations had ruled that the ship had breached a ban on Iranian arms exports.
The containers had been left piled in an open field inside the base for 2 1/2 years, exposed to wide temperature swings on the Mediterranean island which may have made the munitions unstable.
Polyviou said since Christofias personally decided to confiscate the cargo, it was incumbent on him to take measures that would ensure the munitions' safe storage.
"The essence of the matter is that the president of the republic, in this instance, failed in his duty to implement the necessary measures for the safety of the citizens of the Cyprus republic and especially its military and fire department personnel," said Polyviou.