Flailing Cyprus hopes Russia will step in

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
March 20, 2013

Cyprus stands on shaky ground after rejecting the European Union’s bailout conditions, al Qaeda claims responsibility for bomb attacks in Baghdad, and South Korea suspects the North of involvement in a widespread hacking attack. Today is Wednesday, March 20, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.


An elderly man sits in front of a closed branch of Bank of Cyprus as a youth makes a transaction at an ATM in Nicosia, March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

Cyprus rejects EU bailout conditions, could get booted from euro zone. Cyprus turned to Russia for assistance today after rejecting the terms for a European Union bailout on Tuesday, a decision which could cost it EU support:

The European Central Bank’s chief negotiator on Cyprus, Joerg Asmussen, said the ECB would have to pull the plug on Cypriot banks unless the country took a bailout quickly. “We can provide emergency liquidity only to solvent banks and… the solvency of Cypriot banks cannot be assumed if an aid program is not agreed on soon, which would allow for a quick recapitalization of the banking sector,” Asmussen told German weekly Die Zeit in an interview conducted on Tuesday evening. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said he could not rule out Cyprus leaving the euro zone, although he hoped its leaders would find a solution for it to stay.

The Cypriot parliament unanimously voted against a 10 percent tax on accounts worth over 100,000 euros and a smaller tax on lesser accounts, which would raise 5.8 billion euros of the 10 billion euros slated to bail out the small country out. According to Russia’s finance ministry, Cyprus requested a five-year extension and lower interest on an existing 2.5 billion euro loan, as well as an additional 5 billion euros. Many Russian citizens hold assets in Cyprus banks. Cyprus Finance Minister Michael Sarris said he has not yet reached a deal with Moscow. For now, Cypriot banks remain closed.

Al Qaeda takes credit for deadly Iraq bombings. Al Qaeda’s Iraqi wing claimed responsibility for attacks that killed around 60 people in Baghdad on Tuesday:

Car bombs, roadside explosions and suicide attacks on Tuesday hit mainly Shi’ite districts and security forces in Baghdad and other cities, including a bomber who detonated his blast inside a restaurant in the northern city of Mosul. “What has reached you on Tuesday is just the first drop of rain, and a first phase, for by God’s will, after this we will have our revenge,” the al Qaeda statement posted on a jihadist website late on Tuesday said.

Suicide bombers in Iraq have carried out attacks nearly twice a week since January. Sectarian tension in the country runs high, especially as violence ravages its neighbor, Syria. Tuesday’s blast came on the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

South Korea on high alert after hacking incident. The South Korean army raised its alert level following a hacking attack on servers at two major banks and three broadcasters, fearing North Korean involvement in the breach:

South Korea’s military said it was not affected by the attack but raised its state of readiness in response. None of the country’s oil refineries, power stations, ports or airports was affected. Police and government officials declined to speculate on whether North Korea, which has threatened to attack both South Korea and the United States after it was hit with United Nations sanctions for its February nuclear test, was behind the hacking.

Police anticipate a lengthy investigation.

Nota Bene: Reuters photographers captured Obama looking slightly awkward on his first presidential trip to Israel. Obama has pledged undying support to the U.S. ally.

Standouts:

Ballet bordello - One former dancer accuses the Bolshoi Ballet of being a “giant brothel.” (BBC)

Dreams of Istanbul past and present - Istanbul could soon look the way Ottoman engineers and architects imagined it. (The Atlantic Cities)

Dumpling diplomacy - Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s modest appetite has impressed China and become an Internet meme. (Time)

Artistic reparations - France has returned to their rightful owners seven paintings seized by Nazis for display in an art gallery for Adolf Hitler. (The Los Angeles Times)

Not so free press - Reuters columnist John Lloyd weighs in on the state of British media. (Reuters)

From the File:

  • North Korea’s Kim supervises “drone attack” drill
  • UK says Syria chemical attack report boosts case to arm rebels
  • Indian government  unlikely to call snap election
  • Afghanistan, NATO agree on troops leaving key province
  • China’s Xi says willing to promote dialogue between Koreas
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