Eurozone finance ministers to meet on Cyprus

Associated Press
A woman walks outside of Laiki Bank capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cyprus’ president Nicos Anastasiades says talks with international creditors for a much-needed rescue loan to keep the country from going bankrupt are paying off.  Anastasiades urged patience, saying that it will soon become clear that “hard work produces good results.” (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
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BRUSSELS (AP) — The finance ministers of the 17 euro countries will hold a special meeting this week to discuss the planned bailout program for Cyprus.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the ministers' meetings, on Wednesday called an extraordinary session for Friday in Brussels to discuss the rescue loans for the cash-strapped country. Cyprus needs up to €17 billion ($22 billion) to recapitalize its banks, which took huge losses on Greek debt, and to keep its government afloat.

Dijsselbloem's spokeswoman, Simone Boitelli, says it is too early to gauge whether the ministers will make a final decision on the bailout at the meeting. She says the "troika" of creditors — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — will report back on negotiations with the new Cypriot government.

Ministers are aiming to finalize the bailout package by the end of the month.

Cyprus' president said the current round of talks with the troika is showing signs of progress. Nicos Anastasiades urged patience, saying it will soon become clear that "hard work produces good results."

Cyprus government spokesman Christos Stylianides said authorities were "working ceaselessly" to reach a bailout accord as soon as possible to end the uncertainty that's dragging the economy down.

Stylianides ruled out forcing bank bondholders or depositors to share in the cost of the bailout or cutting wages and pensions beyond what has already been agreed in a preliminary bailout deal.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michalis Sarris will travel to Russia on Monday, a finance ministry official confirmed on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to speak publicly.

Cyprus has been trying to get longtime ally Moscow to agree to a five-year repayment extension on a low interest, €2.5 billion loan it received two years ago, when it could no longer borrow from international markets. The previous Cypriot government also tried unsuccessfully last year to secure another €5 billion loan from Russia.

Some form of help is expected from Russia, though, since many investors and depositors in Cypriot banks are Russian. Top Cypriot officials said in January that Russia was ready to contribute to a rescue package.

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