April 23 - Cypriot finance minister tells Reuters gold sale is not a priority, and currency controls could be eased in days or weeks. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) (SOUNDBITE) (English) CYPRIOT FINANCE MINISTER HARRIS GEORGIADES, SAYING: "Soon, I hope. Actually I am pretty confident that these necessary but temporary measures will not be needed in the next days or weeks. It was necessary in order to verify that the confidence remains in our banking system. I do believe that the experience of the issue of the banking system has been a positive surprise to everyone. We are making good progress. Already these measures have been significantly reduced compared to where they were at the beginning, so we shall proceed swiftly towards their further easing and their eventual full lifting." " I am sure that within the framework of our cooperation with the central bank we shall explore all possibilities, how best to implement this commitment, what the best timing will be, but we have not moved towards this commitment yet. It is something that is on the agenda but is not something which we are tackling now." "I think parliament will acknowledge that there is no alternative really at this point. I wish there was, but there is not, we are actually paying the cost, the price rather, of mistakes, indecision, false estimates and assessments of the past. We are paying the price of imbalances, both in our public sector and in our banking sector. We acknowledge our mistakes, we are ready to tackle them, to fix them and to move ahead. There is no alternative." Cyprus is not giving priority to a sale of gold reserves under the international bailout agreed this month and is still exploring all options to meet its side of the deal, says Cypriot finance minister Harris Georgiades. He also told Reuters he anticipated currency controls, imposed after a chaotic bailout last month and which led to a lockdown of the banking system for 15 days would be eased in "days or weeks". Cyprus' agreement to sell 400 million euros worth of its gold reserves was one of several shockwaves its progress towards a bailout sent through European financial markets earlier this month. The amount is small but the precedent of a euro zone central bank being pushed to dispose of some of its reserves helped drive the biggest fall in gold prices in 30 years. Investors worry central banks in some of the euro zone's struggling larger economies could eventually be pushed to follow Cyprus' example. Teetering on the edge of default, Cyprus last month wound down its second largest bank and raided depositors' uninsured savings at another bank to fund a recapitalisation. Both banks were badly hit by their exposure to Greece. It has to come up with most of the 23 billion itself, with only 10 billion made available by lenders and a fractious parliament, which had rejected milder terms of a broad-based bail-in on bank depositors in March, will have to approve the bailout in coming days. Cyprus imposed capital controls at the end of March, worried about a flight of funds from a banking system flush with cash from Russian and European businesses, but also from many overseas Cypriots.