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No Cyprus bailout before Feb. election: German newspaper

BERLIN -- Cyprus can only expect a bailout in early March after its presidential election next month, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday, citing sources close to negotiations.

Cyprus holds presidential elections on Feb. 17 and 24 and the paper said euro zone finance ministers want to wait to work with the successor of outgoing communist President Dimitris Christofias, who is not seeking re-election.

“The incumbent Christofias categorically rejects the sale of state companies. Without privatization revenues the country cannot be reformed,” the paper quoted sources in Brussels as saying.

The head of euro zone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, said last month the ministers would discuss at their next meeting on Jan. 21 a deal for Cyprus, one of the smallest economies in the 17-nation common currency area.

Cyprus sought financial aid — which could be up to 17.5 billion euros (US$22.6 billion), equal to its entire gross domestic product — from the European Union and IMF last June. Its economic woes stem from its banks' heavy exposure to crisis-racked Greece.

Further complicating the outlook for the island, a senior member of Germany's main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) was quoted on Wednesday as saying his party would not support financial aid for Cyprus.

“As matters stand, I cannot imagine that German taxpayers save Cypriot banks whose business model is based on facilitating tax evasion,” SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

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