Cyprus lawmakers reject bank tax; bailout in disarray
NICOSIA (REUTERS) - Cyprus's parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposed levy on savings in banks as a condition for a European bailout on Tuesday, throwing international efforts to rescue the latest casualty of the euro zone debt crisis into disarray.
The vote in the tiny legislature was a stunning setback for the 17-nation bloc; lawmakers in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy have all accepted unpopular austerity measures over the last three years to secure European aid.
With hundreds of demonstrators facing riot police outside parliament and chanting "They're drinking our blood", the ruling party abstained and 36 other lawmakers voted unanimously to reject the bill, bringing the Mediterranean island, one of the smallest European states, to the brink of financial meltdown.
EU countries said before the vote that they would withhold 10 billion euros (S$16.2 billion) in bailout loans unless depositors in Cyprus, including small savers, shared the cost of the rescue; the European Central Bank (ECB) had threatened to end emergency lending assistance for teetering Cypriot banks, which were hard hit by the financial crisis in neighbouring Greece.