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Cyprus President Seeks Union Backing On Austerity

Stefanou conceded that there "isn't a great deal of time" to wrap up discussions, but said that everyone is clear about the issues and what's at stake.

"I believe we can conclude this dialogue soon," he said.

Time is weighing on the government, whose request for a ⿬5 billion ($6.44 billion) loan from Russia ⿿ made to bolster its bargaining hand in negotiations with troika officials ⿿ has so far gone unanswered. Cyprus received a ⿬2.5 billion ($3.22 billion) loan from Moscow last year to pay its bills after it became too expensive for it to tap investors.

International credit rating agency Moody's, which downgraded Cyprus deeper in to junk territory this week said the recapitalization needs of Cypriot banks could exceed ⿬8 billion ($10.31 billion). The agency said that amount would push public debt to a massive 140 percent of gross domestic product ⿿ possibly too much to bear for a small country with bleak growth prospects over the next three to five years.

The country is already hurting as the jobless rate is projected to climb to almost 13 percent next year.

Poverty is far from the levels seen in other troubled economies, but there are signs it's on the rise. Cyprus' Greek Orthodox Church says the number of families in and around the capital Nicosia that received food aid last month almost doubled compared with May.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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