Cyprus postpones debate on controversial EU bailout

The Cyprus government postponed a planned emergency session of parliament on Sunday to debate a controversial EU bailout, state media said, as the scale of opposition to its terms became clear.

A cut-out image of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades decorates a DJ stand as part of carnival celebrations in Nicosia on March 16, 2013. The Cypriot government postponed a planned emergency session of parliament to debate a controversial EU bailout, state media said, as the scale of opposition to its terms became clear.

President Nicos Anastasiades also put off until Monday a planned briefing of MPs and a promised address to the nation to defend what he acknowledged were "painful" sacrifices in return for a desperately needed 10-billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout for the island's banks.

MPs will now convene at 4 pm (1400 GMT) on Monday to debate ratification of the deal after a briefing by the conservative president at 11 am (0900 GMT), the state broadcaster said.

Ministers will now meet at 8:30 am on Monday to thrash out the draft legislation to put before parliament, including an unprecedented levy of up to 9.9 percent on all savings in the island's banks that has prompted a storm of public protest.

State television said the parliamentary debate was postponed to "ensure MPs were fully aware of the situation and were better informed."

The privately run Sigma TV said that Anastasiades was struggling to secure even a simple majority for the necessary legislation in parliament, in which his rightwing DISY party holds just 20 of the 56 seats.

The communist AKEL party, which has 19 seats, had refused to sign an agreement on the terms on offer while it was in power before Anastasiades was elected president last month.

Even Anastasiades's partners in the ruling coalition have voiced strong misgivings. DIKO leader Marios Garoyian said he had spoken to the president about seeking "alternative choices" amid opposition from some of his centrist party's nine MPs.

The government needs to ratify the controversial savings levy before banks reopen, which is currently scheduled for Tuesday after a holiday weekend on the island.

But state television said there was a possibility that Tuesday too may now be declared a bank holiday as the legislative process falters.

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Writer: AFP
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