Papadopoulos' denial came on his return from Moscow on Tuesday, where he met United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan on the sidelines of Victory Day celebrations.

"Let us not hasten to hail the resumption of some initiative. There is still a long way to go before a new dialogue is properly prepared," Papadopoulos said.

He denied that he agreed with Erdogan on procedures to start new talks.

Erdogan said on Monday Papadopoulos was warming to the idea of a new round of reunification talks and that "he was positively approaching the implementation of a new process".

Deadlocked process

Papadopoulos said during his meeting with Annan in Moscow "there was mutual understanding of the positions of each side in connection with procedural matters".

"We exchanged views and are continuing our efforts for the preparation of the talks, which as I have said must be properly prepared. This is accepted by everyone, because we must have a logical hope next time that these talks will have a good conclusion."

"We ... are continuing our efforts for the preparation of the talks, which ... must be properly prepared. This is accepted by everyone, because we must have a logical hope next time that these talks will have a good conclusion"

Tassos Papadopoulos,
Cyprus President

Papadopoulos also refused to comment on reports that he will be sending two senior envoys to New York later in May to confer with Annan on procedural issues and on the preparation of the talks.

In Athens, the Greek Foreign Ministry said exploratory contacts between the Greek Cypriot government and the UN were expected to soon take place.

UN-sponsored Cyprus talks have been deadlocked since April 2004 when the Greek Cypriots rejected and the Turkish Cypriots accepted a reunification plan drafted by Annan.

War-divided island

Cyprus has been divided into a Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey invaded after an Athens-backed coup on the island.

Anti-reunificiation parties have
been rejected by Turkish Cypriots

Cyprus joined the European Union last year, but the island's division has excluded Turkish Cypriots from most benefits.

Olli Rehn, the EU's expansion commissioner, is to make his first visit to Cyprus on Thursday and Friday to assess chances of resuming reunification talks.

EU spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy said in Brussels on Tuesday that Rehn plans to meet political and civic leaders on both sides of the island.

"The Commission has always said it is prepared to act as a facilitator" to end the island's division, said Nagy.