NICOSIA - Cyprus's Health Minister Stavros Malas said he would resign on Friday to contest presidential elections in February as an independent backed by the ruling communist party, AKEL.

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, elected in 2008, is not seeking re-election, a first for an incumbent president since Cyprus became independent in 1960.

His term has been marked by an economy reeling from its banks' heavy exposure to Greece, the highest levels of unemployment in decades and the island's worst peacetime disaster when a cache of confiscated munitions accidentally exploded destroying Cyprus's largest power station in July 2011.

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