March 29, 2013

Lines but no panic as Cyprus banks open

The Associated Press

NICOSIA, Cyprus - There were long lines of anxious people but no sign of trouble as banks in Cyprus opened Thursday for the first time in nearly two weeks, following an international bailout that sought to prevent the country from financial ruin.

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Customers wait Thursday outside a branch of the Bank of Cyprus in Nicosia as Cypriots got their first chance to access their savings in two weeks.

The Associated Press

The government has imposed a daily limit on how much people can withdraw to stop a run on its banks, the first such action in the 14-year history of the euro currency. Cypriots took the measure in stride, aware that with their economy teetering on the edge of collapse, any undue panic would make the situation worse.

"Everything has been paralyzed. Besides my business being already low, now no one thinks of buying flowers," said flower shop owner Christos Papamichael, who was among about 30 people waiting patiently for bank doors to open. "People think of anything (else) besides flowers; they've got other priorities."

Guards from private security firms reinforced police Thursday outside some ATMs and banks in the capital, Nicosia, but no problems controlling crowds was reported.

President Nicos Anastasiades expressed his "warm gratitude and deep appreciation towards the Cypriot people for the maturity and spirit of responsibility they have shown at a critical time for the stability of the Cypriot economy," a statement from his office said.

Banks have been shut in Cyprus since March 16 to prevent people from draining their accounts as politicians scrambled to come up with a plan to allow the country to qualify for 10 billion euros ($12.9 billion) in international bailout loans for its financial sector.

A deal was finally reached with other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund early Monday.


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