Cyprus president to ask cabinet to resign

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2011 4:33 PM
Cyprus president to ask cabinet to resign

By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cypriot President Demetris Christofias will ask his cabinet to resign on Thursday as he attempts to hold together a fragile governing coalition in the face of growing public anger over a munitions blast which triggered Cyprus's worst peacetime disaster.

Christofias would seek the resignations of all 11 members of his cabinet at a meeting scheduled for 0630 GMT on Thursday, government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said in a statement.

"The President of the Republic intends to proceed with a broad reshuffle...(he) has convened for tomorrow an extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers and will ask all ministers to place their resignations at his disposal," Stefanou said in a statement.

The July 11 munitions blast destroyed Cyprus's largest power station, killing 13 people and knocking out half of the east Mediterranean island's power supply.

Cyprus was already under market pressure because of its links to debt-laden Greece but economists have warned that the island could face a bill of at least 1 billion euros following the blast.

On Wednesday, Moody's cut Cyprus's sovereign rating to Baa1 and warned another downgrade was possible, highlighting the impact of the energy crisis and exposure to Greece that threaten to tip the island into fiscal meltdown.

Also on Wednesday, the junior partner in Cyprus's two-party governing coalition, the Democratic Party (DIKO) said it had asked its two ministers remaining in government to submit their resignations in a bid to force a reshuffle.

The DIKO had last week urged Christofias to create a broad-based national unity government to cope with the fallout from the blast. The Cypriot foreign minister, who came from DIKO ranks, resigned last week.

The call to the two DIKO ministers to quit had come while Christofias, a Communist elected for a five year term in 2008, was on an official visit to France. Stefanou's statement implied that Christofias heard about the DIKO call through the media.

Christofias's center-left government has been savaged by the opposition and thousands of Cypriots who have taken to the streets in protest over state incompetence which they say was to blame for the blast.

The munitions, confiscated from a ship bound for Syria from Iran in 2009 for being in violation of U.N. sanctions, had been stored in scorching heat at a naval base located several hundred meters from the island's main power station. Army officers had repeatedly appealed for the munitions' removal, citing deteriorating storage conditions.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas, Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)