Red-faced government officials acted quickly after the blunder in Nicosia was splashed across mass-selling Greek Cypriot newspaper “Phileleftheros”.

  

"This is a serious matter," government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides told reporters. "There will be a thorough investigation to find out who was last in possession of these documents and how they ended up in the trash."

  

Classified documents, which should have been shredded, were instead left discarded outside an undisclosed ministry building in black bin liners for the garbage truck to pick up.

  

They remained there for several weeks in full public view.

 

Sensitive reports

  

Phileleftheros said the documents covered cabinet decisions, arms purchases, faulty weapons systems, details of military co-operation accords with Greece and Russia, and payments to Cypriots and foreigners for "special services".

 

Also left in the bin were sensitive intelligence service reports on policing at Larnaca international airport, and combating illegal immigration.

  

Defence Minister, Koullis Mavronicolas, has launched an internal ministry inquiry as to how the documents were not disposed off properly.

  

Chrysostomides claimed the documents were not "dumped" outside the defence ministry. He did not elaborate. But the opposition has called for the resignation of the defence minister.