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Independent probe blames Cyprus leader for blast

NICOSIA (Reuters) - An independent state-appointed investigator on Monday said Cypriot President Demetris Christofias’s negligence led to a munitions blast in Cyprus in July that triggered a government crisis and talk the island may receive an EU bailout.

A view of the Vassilikos power station which was extensively damaged by a massive blast on Monday at a neighbouring military base in Cyprus, July 12, 2011. REUTERS/Pavlos Vrionides

Thirteen people died in the July 11 explosion of confiscated Iranian munitions stored at a navy base in the south of Cyprus in scorching weather conditions for more than two years.

Investigator Polys Polyviou said Christofias and his defense and foreign affairs ministers, who resigned in the wake of the blast, were to blame. The president has denied responsibility,

“The President of the Republic in this case failed to take elementary measures for the security of Cyprus’s citizens,” Polyviou told a news conference.

“In this case I am not referring just to institutional responsibility. In this case I apportion serious, and very heavy personal responsibility,” he added.

His conclusions are non-binding, but Polyviou said a separate criminal probe that would investigate the actions of all involved “without exception” was possible.

Christofias, a communist elected with a five-year mandate in 2008, enjoys immunity from prosecution.

“I have the view, particularly as concerns criminal offences, that the attorney-general should examine the possibility of such crimes being committed by all involved, without exception,” Polyviou said.

Police were due to issue a report on Tuesday to the attorney-general who would then decide whether to file charges.

The munitions were confiscated from an Iranian vessel heading to Syria in early 2009 for violating U.N. weapons sanctions and the inquiry heard that authorities had repeatedly ignored warnings about the deteriorating state of the cargo.

Reporting by Michele Kambas