Cyprus says close to bailout deal with EU/IMF lenders

NICOSIA Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:57am EST

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cash-strapped Cyprus is close to agreeing a bailout package with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, President Demetris Christofias said on Thursday as officials from the lenders left the country after the latest round of talks.

The Mediterranean island sought financial aid, expected to top 10 billion euros or 60 percent of its GDP, from its European partners and the IMF in June after its banking sector was battered by exposure to Greece.

"After tough negotiations with the troika... we are very close to signing a memorandum," Christofias said in a statement from Brussels, where he is attending a two-day EU summit.

"Very few issues remain and it's possible that the gaps in these issues will be bridged very soon," he added.

The two sides have been at odds over a host of issues including the amount needed to recapitalize Cypriot banks as well as on privatizations and pension cuts.

The troika of EU, European Central Bank and IMF representatives, who were due to leave Cyprus on the weekend, left on Thursday after nearly two weeks of negotiations and talks would continue over the phone, a finance ministry spokesman said.

They are expected to return at a later date, he said.

"If the president says we're close, we're close," Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly who has been leading the negotiations, told parliament on hopes for a deal.

(Reporting by Constantinos Tsindas; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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