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Last ditch efforts underway to conclude Cyprus bailout deal


09:09, November 22, 2012

NICOSIA, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- International lenders and the Cyprus government embarked on a last ditch effort on Wednesday to clinch a bailout agreement which has eluded them despite 13 days of negotiations.

Troika technocrats from the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) went through counter proposals submitted on Tuesday night by the Cyprus government.

However, after negotiating through the day on Wednesday, differences still persisted on several thorny issues. These included social pension reforms and extension of the retirement age, privatizing semi-governmental enterprises and allocating future proceeds from exploitation of natural gas deposits.

Cyprus in June applied to the European Union and IMF for financial assistance to recapitalize its banks that were battered by their extended exposure to Greek debt, and to meet immediate salary needs.

Troika technocrats who arrived on Nov. 15 were reported to be preparing to fly out on Thursday without finalizing an agreement.

Cyprus president Dimitris Christofias said it would be difficult for him to sign a bailout agreement because of tough conditions attached.

The country's central bank governor Panikos Demetriades warned of the risks of not agreeing on a bailout or further delaying agreement in a letter to President Christofias, as he raised the specter of the government becoming insolvent in the immediate future.

Main opposition leader Nicos Anastasiades, the frontrunner in polls to win next February's presidential election, also warned Christofias of dire consequences if he failed to conclude the bailout agreement.

"Either we will conclude a loan agreement accompanied by a very difficult memorandum on economy adjustments or we will face as a country an
incalculable economic disaster whose effects would be shouldered by the most vulnerable groups of society," Anastadiades' spokesperson said.

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