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Cyprus announces new cabinet to tackle economic crisis

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Cypriot president-elect Nicos Anastasiades named a cabinet on Wednesday as he focused on sealing an EU rescue package for the small Mediterranean island's crisis-hit economy.

Conservative Anastasiades, 66, will be sworn in on Thursday to a five-year term, replacing discredited communist Demetris Christofias, who did not run for re-election.

His all-male cabinet team will be sworn in on Friday.

Anastasiades vowed after clinching victory in a Sunday runoff against communist-backed Stavros Malas to secure an "earliest possible" bailout for the crisis-hit euro state, winning support from the European Commission.

Christofias sought a bailout in June, but talks have dragged as the outgoing leader resisted EU pressure to privatise profitable state companies.

The new government is essentially an alliance between Anastasiades' Disy party and the centre-right Diko party, which has secured four ministries.

Anastasiades had already named Disy MEP Ioannis Kasoulides, 64, as foreign minister and non-aligned economist Michalis Sarris, 66, as finance minister.

Both are respected figures at home and in Europe.

Kasoulides served as foreign minister 1997-2003 to help steer Cyprus toward EU accession in 2004 and is a former government spokesman.

Sarris is a former finance minister who navigated the island into the eurozone in 2008 and worked at the World Bank. He was also chairman of the Greek-exposed Cyprus Popular Bank, from which he resigned in August.

His first task will be to attend Monday's eurogroup meeting, which is expected to discuss Cyprus' bailout conditions for financial aid estimated at 17 billion euros.

"We have already made contacts with important people, ministers and also technocrats to accelerate as much as possible an agreement on the memorandum," Sarris told reporters on Wednesday.

"The priority is to speed up procedures to solve the problem once and for all," he added.

Meanwhile, Nobel economics laureate Christopher Pissarides, 65, is to head a new national economy body to advise the president. A main priority will be to seek a bridging loan while bailout negotiations run their course.

Outgoing Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly said on Wednesday the government would be able to pay its way until May.

"On the evidence before us we can manage the state finances without any problem with payments until May, as we always work three months ahead," Shiarly told reporters.

The key commerce portfolio, responsible for the island's potentially lucrative energy industry, has gone to Diko businessman George Lakkotrypis.

EU powerhouses France and Germany have welcomed the election of Anastasiades and urged the new government of the heavily indebted state to negotiate a bailout quickly.

The president has said he would would accept harsh measures required to secure a bailout from the so-called troika -- the European Union, European Central Bank and IMF.

The European Commission recently forecast that the Cypriot economy will shrink 3.5 percent in 2013 after a 2.3 percent contraction last year.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130227/cyprus-announces-new-cabinet-tackle-economic-crisis