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Bailout rejection puts Cyprus back in the hole

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 8:48 p.m.
Demonstrators decry a bid to take money from depositors' bank outside the Cypriot parliament on Tuesday, March 19. The move is part of a larger bailout package for Cyprus being negotiated with other European countries.

Lawmakers in Cyprus on Tuesday rejected a bailout plan that would have rescued the country's banks but forced savers to chip in for the cost, throwing down a gauntlet to the rest of Europe over the financial fate of the tiny island nation.

The plan to save Cyprus's collapsing banks but to charge depositors for the service proved so controversial that not one of the 56 members of Cyprus's parliament voted for it Tuesday evening.

The rejection leaves the fate of rescue plans up in the air, with other European leaders so far unwilling to step in to save Cyprus, where bank deposits tower over the rest of the economy.

The rejection leaves Cyprus, the International Monetary Fund and the rest of Europe in a standoff familiar from previous bailout negotiations, with the country trying to navigate its local politics and possibly get a better deal for itself as the others stand firm on how much they want to commit to yet another troubled euro-zone nation.

The fate of the 17-nation currency union, meanwhile, again hangs in the balance, threatened by a country that constitutes just 0.2 percent of the zone's collective economy. Throughout the crisis, European policymakers have tried to keep any country from leaving the euro. Losing a member nation would pose uncertain risks to the world financial system and be politically embarrassing.

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