Cyprus lawmakers reject deposits-seizure bill

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Cypriot lawmakers yesterday rejected a critical draft bill that would have seized part of people's bank deposits in order to qualify for a vital international bailout, with not a single vote in favor.

The rejection leaves Cyprus' bailout in question. Without external funds, the country's banks face collapse and the government could go bankrupt. Nicosia will now have to come up with an alternative plan to raise the money: The government could try to offer a compromise bill that would be more palatable to lawmakers.

The bill, which had been amended Tuesday morning to shield small deposit holders from the one-time deposit tax, was rejected with 36 votes against and 19 abstentions. One deputy was absent.

"No to new colonial bonds, no to subjugation, no to national dishonor and raw blackmail," House Speaker Yiannakis Omirou said during the debate before the vote. After the vote failed, he said political leaders will have a meeting with the president Wednesday to discuss the next steps.

Nicholas Papadopoulos, the chairman of the parliamentary finance committee, said banks would remain closed "for as long as we need to conclude an agreement" but stressed this would be "in the next few days."

Banks had been ordered to remain shut until Thursday.

Hundreds of protesters outside Parliament cheered in jubilation and sang the national anthem when they heard the bill had not passed. -- AP

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