Cyprus banks remain closed to avert run on deposits

Mon Mar 25, 2013 6:57pm EDT
 
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By Michele Kambas and Karolina Tagaris

NICOSIA (Reuters) - The president of Cyprus assured his people a bailout deal he struck with the European Union was in their best interests, but banks will remain closed until Thursday - and even then subject to capital controls to prevent a run on deposits.

Returned from fraught negotiations in Brussels, President Nicos Anastasiades said late on Monday the 10-billion euro ($13 billion) rescue plan agreed there in the early hours of the morning was "painful" but essential to avoid economic meltdown.

He agreed to close down the second-largest bank, Cyprus Popular, and inflict heavy losses on big depositors, many of them Russian, after Cyprus's outsize financial sector ran into trouble when its investments in neighboring Greece went sour.

European leaders said a chaotic national bankruptcy that might have forced Cyprus from the euro and upset Europe's economy was averted - though investors in other European banks are alarmed by the precedent of losses for depositors in Cyprus.

"The agreement we reached is difficult but, under the circumstances, the best that we could achieve," Anastasiades said in a televised address to the nation on Monday evening.

"We leave behind the uncertainty and anxiety that we all lived through over the last few months and we look forward now to the future with optimism," he told compatriots who face an immediate, deep recession and years of hardship unlikely to be milder than those experienced by Irish, Greeks and Portuguese.

Many Cypriots say they felt anything but reassured by the bailout deal, however, and are expected to besiege banks as soon as they reopen after a shutdown that began over a week ago.

Reversing a previous decision to start reopening at least some banks on Tuesday, the central bank said late on Monday that they would all now stay shut until Thursday to ensure the "smooth functioning of the whole banking system".   Continued...

 
People sit at a cafeteria as Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades addresses the nation in Nicosia March 25, 2013. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis