Asmussen hopeful about Cyprus agreement by end March

BERLIN Sun Feb 17, 2013 1:52pm EST

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BERLIN Feb 17 (Reuters) - European Central Bank board member Joerg Asmussen said on Sunday he hoped a financial rescue agreement that would include privatisations with a new Cyprus government could be reached by the end of March after an election there on Sunday.

He said the ECB was neutral about the outcome of the presidential election, where Conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades took a commanding lead but failed to avoid a run-off next week.

"But we need someone we can talk to locally that we can negotiate an adjustment programme with," Asmussen said. "To secure the debt sustainability, we'll need to see, for example, extensive privatisations. The previous president rejected that.

"Now we'll have to take a look and see if we can negotiate a programme by the end of March," Asmussen said.

Anastasiades has pledged a quick agreement with the European Union and International Monetary Fund on a financial rescue, which investors want agreed before the island's woes derail progress in shoring up the rest of the euro zone's periphery.

Cyprus applied for international financial aid eight months ago, after Greece's sovereign debt restructuring caused huge losses for its banks. The island needs up to 10 billion euros to shore up the banks and a further 7.5 billion euros for its budget. (Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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