NEWS

Christofias resists calls to step down

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias on Thursday fended off calls to resign amid mounting pressure from the fallout of a munitions blast that wrecked the island’s biggest power plant and rising concerns about the state of the island nation’s economy.

?The people elected me, and it is to the people that I am accountable. Not to the media,? said Christofias, currently in the third year of his five-year tenure.

Earlier on Thursday, the communist president asked his cabinet to resign, opening the door for a reshuffle. DIKO, the junior partner in the government coalition with AKEL, last week directed its two cabinet ministers to step down in a bid to pressure Christofias into forming a broader unity coalition government to address the crisis.

DIKO spokesman Fotis Fotiou on Thursday said the party would remain in government under certain conditions, including a joint platform and specific time-frames for dealing with the economic and political challenges.

An explosion at a munitions dump on July 11 killed 13 people and sparked an energy crisis after destroying the island?s biggest power plant. The cost from the accident and the power disruptions is estimated at between 1 and 3 billion euros — meaning up to 17 percent of Cyprus’s gross domestic product.

It came as a woeful addition to Cyprus?s problems as the country has seen its borrowing costs soar because of its exposure to Greek debt. Moody’s on Wednesday cut Cyprus’s rating to three notches above junk.

The rating agency also downgraded two Cypriot banks on Thursday. Moody?s referred to a ?material risk? that losses on Greek debt holdings will force the country?s banks to seek a bailout ?over the next few years.?

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou played down concerns that Cyprus would have to seek an EU bailout.

?Until now, Cyprus has managed to satisfy its financing needs until the end of the year. So don’t take it as a given that Cyprus will be admitted into a support mechanism,? Stefanou said.

Christofias also faces growing criticism from the Cypriot people who have staged regular protests over the blast, blaming state incompetence for allowing dangerous munitions to be stored in unsafe conditions.

He has said that any probe will also scrutinize his own role.