Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash described the initiative as a recipe for ethnic violence in an article published by the Anatolia news agency on Monday.

Denktash's outburst came just days before parliamentary elections in his Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is widely seen as a referendum on the UN reunification plan and the island's joint accession to the EU.

The TRNC opposition, the Communal Liberation Party, which says it is ready to negotiate the plan drawn by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, is expected to make major political gains in Sunday's polls.

Laying blame

The UN has blamed Denktash for the failure of the peace plan in March, but official reaction in Lefkosa (Nicosia) to failed unification was that the Annan plan was eroding the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.

"They are doing everything required for an atmosphere that will lead to renewed bloodshed in two or three years," Denktash said, according to Anatolia.

Cyprus' division in 1974 was preceded by years of ethnic strife, which resulted in the Turkish Cypriots' departure from the then joint administration of the island.

UN blames Denktash for failure
on reunification

"We are at crossroads. The Turkish Cypriots will decide which way to go... I hope those who want to protect their state will win," he added.

Denktash says the Annan plan aims to render the Turkish Cypriots to a minority dominated by the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government in the south of the island.

He is fiercely opposed to provisions on the return of displaced Greek Cypriots to the north, which will in turn require the mass movement of thousands of Turkish Cypriots.

EU enlargment considerations

The EU is pressing for a settlement by May 2004 when it is set to admit the Greek Cypriot side.

The Union says the Turkish Cypriots will be denied entry if a reunification deal is not struck in time.

A failure to resolve the conflict could also hit Turkey's own aspirations to join the pan-European bloc.

Turkey, the only nation to recognize the TRNC, maintains some 30,000 troops in the breakaway republic.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkey occupied the north in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.