Crowds gather outside Cyprus parliament, burn flag

Restive crowds, mostly bank employees anxious that their lenders not collapse as Cyprus struggles to clinch a bailout deal, gathered outside parliament Friday awaiting an emergency session expected to determine their future.

A group of about 30 hooded youths burned a European flag next to the parliament building in front of police barricades, as they chanted "The haircut is robbery, the crisis should be solved by plutocracy."

They were referring to news that the Cypriot authorities were considering a one-time tax of up to 15 percent on bank deposits with a troika of lenders to save its banks from collapse.

Nicosia has until Monday to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.47 billion) to unlock loans worth 10 billion euros or face being denied European Central Bank emergency funds in a move that would see its teetering banking sector destroyed.

The acting leader of the ruling Disy party leader, Averof Neophytou, said he believed a deal was still possible on Friday night.

"We believe that in the next few hours we could be able, with a lot of difficulties, to reach a framework that will be in the policies of the European Union, European Central Bank and IMF," Neophytou told reporters.

"We are trying hard. I believe that we may have a result this day."

Government spokesman Christos Stylianides told private Sigma television: "We are in the most crucial negotiations in our history. There is going to be a cost for everyone, but it will give us a new beginning."

It was unclear whether the package to be presented to the troika would go before parliament on Friday night, with one channel saying the session was likely to be held over until Saturday.

With no final deal in sight more than 10 hours after parliament had been expected to meet in the morning, President Nicos Anastasiades took to his Twitter account to send out a distress signal: "The country must be saved."

"The House of Representatives will soon be called upon to make difficult decisions. There will be painful aspects, but the country must be saved," he wrote.