Europe

Cyprus President Christofias blamed for navy base blast

Cyprus' Vasiliko power station, damaged by a blast at the nearby Evangelos Florakis naval base in July 2011
Image caption The blast and subsequent fire badly damaged the nearby Vasiliko power station

The president of Cyprus has been blamed by an official investigator for negligence leading to a huge explosion that killed 13 people in July.

Polys Polyviou told a news conference that President Demetris Christofias bore a "serious, and very heavy personal responsibility" for the blast.

He said the way decaying munitions were stored at a navy base next to a power station was "completely irresponsible".

Cyprus's defence and foreign ministers have already resigned over the affair.

The explosion occurred when nearly 100 containers of seized Iranian munitions, being stored at the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari, blew up.

It was the Mediterranean island's worst peacetime military accident.

The dead included the head of the Cypriot navy and six firefighters. Dozens of people were injured.

The explosion also badly damaged Cyprus's largest power station, leading to severe power cuts across the island.

'Time bomb'

Mr Polyviou said he had handed his report directly to the president on Monday morning.

There was no immediate comment from the president in response to his conclusions.

Mr Christofias had told the public inquiry that he was never told of the risk posed by the arms cache.

But Mr Polyviou said he was convinced that Mr Christofias was aware of the danger, yet took no precautions.

Image caption Polis Polyviou (left) said he had handed his report and explained his conclusions to the president

About 100 containers - most packed with gunpowder - had been stacked in an open field at the navy base since 2009, when they were seized from a ship sailing from Iran to Syria in violation of a UN ban on Iranian arms shipments.

Mr Polyviou said this had been "a time bomb left at the naval base until it exploded".

"My conclusion is that the main responsibility for the tragedy lies with the president," he said.

He said the president had been in charge of a decision-making process that failed to protect Cypriot citizens, despite repeated concerns expressed about the safety of the munitions, which were left in direct sunlight.

He said UN inspectors, who had offered to examine the seized cargo, had been denied access.

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