Cyprus is on the verge of an unprecedented financial experiment:imposing controls on money transfers in an economy that doesn'thave its own currency.

Countries from Argentina to Iceland have used similar measuresin the past to defend against devaluation. Being part of the eurozone may make it harder for the Mediterranean island to enforcerestrictions, as any money that leaves the banking system can betaken out of Cyprus without losing value.

That also may make it more difficult to meet the goal setyesterday by Finance Minister Michael Sarris to lift any controlsin “a matter of weeks.” When economies in Asia and Latin Americatried to stem the outflow of money in the 1980s and 1990s, theyended up keeping the measures in effect for six months to twoyears. Iceland, another island nation with an outsize bankingsystem, still has capital controls five years after its bankscollapsed in 2008.

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