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Cyprus races against time to find new aid plan

– As Cypriot politicians raced to find a new financial rescue plan ahead of a Monday deadline, tensions built in the streets of the capital. Residents withdrew what money they could from ATMs amid concern the banks could collapse.

The European Central Bank warned Thursday it will pull the plug on the country’s troubled banks at the start of next week if a bailout package for Cyprus is not approved by then. The plan must please both parliament and the potential rescue creditors – the other 16 countries that use the euro and the International Monetary Fund. Amid indications that the new plan will include restructuring Cyprus’ troubled second-largest lender, Laiki, long lines of people formed at the bank’s ATMs in the capital.

“We need cash. We have families, children, grandchildren and expenses, and the banks have been closed since Saturday,” said Andri Olympiou in Nicosia, the capital.

Banks have been shut since an initial bailout plan last weekend proposed raiding bank deposits, raising howls of outrage. They will remain closed until Tuesday to prevent a run. Although ATMs have been functioning, many often run out of cash.

“I’ve been to five ATMs, looking for the one with the smallest queue. The others had really long queues, at least 40 or 50 people,” said Peter Larkin, a Nicosia resident waiting in line with his 5-year-old daughter. “There’s a lot of rumours that Laiki is going to go bankrupt and that (their ATMs) will stop giving out money.”

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