Cyprus bailout 'painful' but averted collapse: President

NICOSIA (AFP) - President Nicos Anastasiades admitted the euro zone bailout deal he struck in Brussels on Monday was painful but said Cyprus could now make a fresh start after having come a "breath away" from collapse.

He had taken "painful decisions to save the country from bankruptcy" and pledged that Cyprus "would find its feet again".

The conservative president said his mission in make-or-break talks with international creditors had been an "extremely difficult task with one sole aim - to achieve the salvation of our country through the consolidation and streamlining of our banking system."

"They were difficult hours and at times dramatic," Mr Anastasiades said in a televised address to the divided and worried nation on his return to the island from the marathon talks which concluded in the early hours. "Cyprus was a breath away from economic collapse," he said. "It was a big battle in which we came out wounded, but upright and determined to make a fresh start."

Mr Anastasiades clinched the 10-billion-euro (S$16 billion) bailout averting a chaotic eurozone exit and allowing a partial reopening of the bank branches from Tuesday after a 10-day shutdown but at the expense of its status as an offshore banking centre.

"The agreement reached is painful one but under the circumstances the best we could secure. We have overcome the risk of bankruptcy of Cyprus and prevented tragic consequences for the economy and society," the president said.

"Under the circumstances there were no easy solutions. I was obliged to take tough, painful and bold decisions to ensure a manageable tomorrow." In the face of public outrage over the devastation of the island's prized banking sector, together with huge losses in savings and jobs, he vowed to open a criminal investigation into the crisis.

"I undertake in the next few days for the cabinet to appoint criminal investigators with a clear term of reference to find and attribute responsibility wherever it belongs," Mr Anastasiades said.

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