Cyprus' finance minister quits

By the Associated Press | March 16, 2012 | 10:45 AM EDT

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus' president will reshuffle his Cabinet after the finance minister resigned for health reasons, a government spokesman said Friday.

Stefanos Stefanou said Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias insisted on his resignation, despite the important role he has been playing during the nation's economic crisis and President Dimitris Christofias' plea for him to remain at his post.

"I'm afraid I can't put aside matters of health because things can get worse very easily and this requires lots of time and rest," Kazamias said, dismissing media reports that differences with Christofias over policy contributed to his early exit.

Kazamias, a 61-year-old German-educated economist and member of the governing communist-rooted AKEL party, suffered a leg infection earlier this year.

Stefanou said the new Cabinet will be announced Monday. Media speculated that Kazamias will be replaced by banker Vassos Shiarlis or Cyprus Chamber of Commerce President Phidias Pilides.

Kazamias was appointed as finance minister in August in the wake of a political and economic crisis spawned by the fatal detonation of seized Iranian munitions at a naval base that wrecked the island's largest power station.

But Kazamias earned the respect of even opposition politicians who dominate the Cypriot parliament for helping to shore up public finances as the economic crisis in neighboring Greece affected the Cypriot economy and raised fears this euro member would also need an EU.

He also brokered an end to a long-standing tax dispute between the government and the island's wealthy Orthodox Christian church and helped to attract foreign investor interest.

Kazamias has been highly critical of credit rating agencies over their repeated downgrades of Cyprus, mainly due to its banks' significant exposure to Greek debt.