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Feature: Cypriot banks reopen calmly

By Petros Petrides, Liu Yongqiu (Xinhua)

09:26, March 29, 2013

People wait outside a branch of Bank of Cyprus before the reopening of the bank in Nicosia, capital of Cyprus, on March 28, 2013. (Xinhua/Stefanos Kouratzis)

NICOSIA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Banks in Cyprus reopened for business on Thursday with remarkably few people lined up outside -- to the relief of authorities which have feared a run on the banks following a closure since March 16.

At the Evanthous Street, branch of Cyprus Popular (Laiki) Bank in central Nicosia, about 20 customers began to wait for the reopening of the bank at around 11:30 a.m. (0930GMT).

Most of those waiting were pensioners with their saving books in their hands who did not have bank cards to draw cash from teller machines.

A security guard maintained order and delivered leaflets on temporary transaction measures, both in Greek and English, to the waiting customers.

These measures imposes controls on bank transaction limits cash withdrawal to 300 euros (about 385 U.S. dollars) per day per bank account and entirely prohibits payment or money transfer by check, unless it involves accounts in the same bank. However, credit card holders can use them for commercial transactions for unlimited amounts of money.

Transfer of money between banks either locally or abroad will only be permitted except for commercial transactions less than 5,000 euros, after submitting documents proving the transaction.

Payment for amounts between 5,000 and 200,000 euros is subject to the approval of a special committee which will give the go ahead depending on total liquidity available at the banks. Payment above 200,000 euros will also be subject to prior approval of the committee but each transaction will be examined separately.

Fixed term deposits maturing during the controls period will be subject to special treatment, with 10 percent of the amount deposited in a bank account. Maturity for the remaining amount will be extended by a month.

Travellers will also be subject to controls and will be allowed to carry a maximum of 1,000 euros per travel abroad.

Artist Elena Christodoulidou and her husband volunteered to write waiting number for the customers to prevent possible stampede from happening.

"This is a new period that starts in Cyprus from today. People are in shock. They are very worried. But I think they will realize from today what actually happened in our lives," Christodoulidou told Xinhua.

She is optimistic about the future: "I don't want to lose my hope. I think this country is a beautiful country. The structure needs restructuring. And I hope better days will come, but complete in a different, different way."

Christodoulidou said she hopes the big change which is happening in Cyprus will bring the best results for its people, especially for the young generation.

The branch in Evanthous Street opened at around 12:30 p.m. due to some "technical problems." People behaved calmly and waited patiently as security men allowed in as many people as tills were available.

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