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Merkel: no special treatment for Cyprus

BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that Cyprus can't expect special treatment as it negotiates a bailout with international lenders.

The Cypriot president, Dimitris Christofias, said last week that he would refuse any request by creditors to sell off state-owned companies as part of a rescue package. The country holds elections Feb. 17 and Christofias isn't seeking re-election.

Merkel's Germany has been a leading advocate of demanding tough conditions in exchange for rescue loans. The chancellor told reporters on Wednesday that “there can be no special conditions for Cyprus _ we have general rules in Europe.”

Merkel also said that “we are far from the end of talks” on bailing out Cyprus.

Cyprus government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou maintained the country hasn't asked for any special treatment. He told state broadcaster CyBC late Wednesday that Cyprus just wants what was agreed in a draft bailout deal with its international lenders _ the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund _ to be implemented.

The draft deal says the government “should consider” privatizations if the debt load is deemed unsustainable. A group of debt inspectors will determine that in a report to be published next week.

Stefanou said Cyprus' partners in the 17-nation eurozone should be mindful of the fact that the country's banks suffered huge losses as result of their decision to write off most of Greece's privately-held debt.

Cyprus is seeking a bailout chiefly to rescue its banks, which held large amounts of toxic Greek debt. Greece's debt write-off cost Cyprus' banks nearly a quarter of the country's (euro) 17.5 billion ($22.85 billion) gross domestic product.

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