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Cyprus eyes 'least worst option'

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
REUTERS
A handwritten sign informs depositors that they can withdraw a maximum 260 euros, as people queue up to make transactions at an ATM of Laiki Bank in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Friday, March 22, 2013.

Lawmakers in Cyprus approved three key bills late Friday as they scrambled to raise enough money to qualify the country for a broader bailout package and help it avoid financial ruin in mere days.

The parliament passed nine bills after a day locked in talks between Cypriot and international officials in Nicosia. Lawmakers may vote on Saturday on what sort of levy to impose on bank deposits above 100,000 euros ($130,000), four days after rejecting an initial proposal to tax all accounts. Banks have been shut all week and are scheduled to reopen on Tuesday.

The European Central Bank has imposed a Monday deadline on Cyprus to come up with proposals that will satisfy international creditors or face the risk of losing access to all emergency funds.

“We are voting for the least worst option,” Averof Neophytou, deputy head of the governing DISY party, said in a speech.

Cyprus' president, Nicos Anastasiades, will travel to Brussels on Saturday to present the revised package to the country's prospective creditors, its fellow countries that use the euro currency and the International Monetary Fund. There has been no indication yet that they will accept it.

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