World Bulletin/News Desk
Cyprus may have to consider an exit from the euro zone if international lenders impose excessively painful austerity measures as a condition for a bailout, the head of its ruling party said on Friday.
Meanwhile, Cyprus ruled out any question of it abandoning the euro zone, hours after the principal backer of its government said the option should be considered if bailout conditions were too tough.
"For the government and the President of the Republic there is absolutely no issue of exiting either the euro zone or the European Union," government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said in a statement.
Andros Kyprianou, whose AKEL party is the primary backer of the left-wing government led by President Demetris Christofias, told Cypriot online news site 24h.com.cy such a strategy could be considered if austerity becomes unbearable.
"If the troika insists on very painful measures to remain in the euro zone, should we dig our heels in and say we won't leave the euro zone because this is important, and (that) we will remain, however painful the measures may be?" Kyprianou said in a video interview posted on the website.
His party is now trailing in opinion polls behind the right-wing Democratic Rally party.
In a second video clip, asked if his comments clearly implied Cyprus should consider leaving the euro zone, Kyprianou replied: "I am certainly leaving this open. I am not pre-judging what we will do, but what I am saying is these issues must be discussed very seriously if we want to serve the interests of the Cypriot people."
Cyprus became the fifth country in the 17 nation euro zone to seek some form of international aid in June, when its banks needed state help to cover massive losses on their exposures in debt-crippled Greece.
It adopted the euro in 2008, four years after joining the European Union. The island now holds the rotating six-month EU presidency.
Leaked documents show the troika - lenders from the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission - have demanded pay cuts in the public sector, privatisations and pension reforms, though negotiations with Cyprus are inconclusive as Nicosia prepares counter-proposals.
But the troika's suggestions will not go down well with a highly-unionised public sector, particularly ahead of a general election scheduled for February 2013.
Christofias, who once led AKEL, has said he does not intend to seek re-election and the party is backing an independent candidate in the race.
Kyprianou, whose party had tried to shake off perceptions in the past that it was euro sceptic, acknowledged that AKEL had "reservations" about the island joining the bloc.
They were overcome, he said, on the premise that membership would be a catalyst for solving the island's long-running ethnic division, and that it would safeguard interests of "workers."
A solution to Cyprus's division has not transpired yet, he said, and said there were also "negative developments" as far as workers' rights were concerned.
Greece has already received two bailouts totalling 240 billion euros but fellow euro zone member Ireland said last week that it would have to negotiate a third programme.
The Ukraine crisis has tested the loyalties of Bulgaria, a Balkan country with historical ties to Moscow and heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies.
Syria expels three United Nations aid workers hindering aid development in the country
Russia has overcome a "psychological barrier" and is ready to deepen its economic ties with China, Deputy Prime MinisterArkady Dvorkovich said
With Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition plus the opposition Greens, it was the biggest majority for any euro zone rescue package so far in the 631-seat chamber.
The agreement commits Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to cooperate with the United States in customs issues, ease red tape at borders, reduce customs wait times and harmonize trade standards.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has unnerved China with his re-examination of certain projects that Chinahas invested in, including a $1.5 billion "port city" project in Colombo.
EU energy chief Maros Sefcovic invited Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Demchyshyn for talks
Gazprom and Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz have accused each other of not sticking to agreements on gas supplies.
The new canal, that will allow two-way traffic of larger ships, is supposed to increase revenues by 2023 to $13 billion.
A day after euro zone finance ministers agreed to a four-month extension of a financial rescue, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis gave a frank assessment of Greece's financial position.
The agreement is the culmination of talks that began in September after the government decided its own solutions to its fiscal crisis were failing to convince investors.
Energy union highlights bloc's attempt to seek independency from its main gas supplier - Russia.
Merkel's right-left coalition is set to prevail, despite vocal pockets of resistance on the right and left.
Republicans passed the bill to increase pressure on Obama to approve the pipeline, a move the president said would bypass a State Department process that will determine whether the project is in the U.S. national interest.
Turkish PM Davutoglu expresses Turkey's readiness to help in supplying energy to Central Europe.