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Cyprus bailout 'no' sparks joy

Thousands of demonstrators burst into cheers and applause as their MPs on Tuesday flatly voted down a painful EU bailout plan aimed at rescuing Cyprus from bankruptcy.

"We're happy because the vote is what the people wanted. We are still very anxious but we hope we are going to find an alternative and a solution because it's clear that Europe is not the solution," said historian Maria Gnatiou, 27.

Reflecting the anger of wide sectors of Greek Cypriot society, MPs rejected the terms of the bailout, decrying as "blackmail" a deal that had been reached with a troika of lenders last Saturday that now lies in tatters.

"The bill has been rejected," house speaker Yiannakis Omirou said, sparking celebrations and applause among protesters gathered outside the parliament building in Nicosia to demand the house spurn the measures.

Omirou gave a breakdown of 36 votes against, 19 abstentions and not a single vote in favour.

Media reports said the government would now try to renegotiate the terms of the deal with the troika -- the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Under the 10-billion-euro ($13 billion) deal sealed with eurozone partners, a controversial levy of at least 6.75 percent was to be slapped on all bank deposits across the island.

"We know it will be hard, but we are willing to make sacrifices to keep our dignity and pride. We don't need Germans or the troika to decide for us," said Maria Hadjisawa, a 30-year-old translator.

The crowds had urged the "no" vote and held up signs warning that other financially crippled European nations like Italy and Spain could be next.

Many Cypriots blame Germany for leading the crippling demands imposed in return for the bailout, in a bid to punish Russia, where investors have placed vast amounts of cash in the island's banks.

The demonstrators, many waving Russian flags, held up banners that read "Hands off Cyprus" and chanted: "It will not pass."

Many also carried signs in Italian and in Spanish warning that the two other financially-crippled EU countries could be next in line to face a similarly painful rescue deal.

"Today it's me. Tomorrow it's you," the signs read.

"Because we're a small country, they thought they could do this to us. But we will not be the experiment for Europe," was the reaction of Stefanos Angelidis, a jobless 28-year-old, after the vote.

Marina Hadjigeorgiou, also in the crowd, said: "The European Union has lost the trust of its people, in all Europe."

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