IMF quits Greek talks; EU tells Tsipras to stop gambling
By Anna Yukhananov and Renee Maltezou
WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund dramatically raised the stakes in Greece's stalled debt talks on Thursday, announcing that its delegation had left negotiations in Brussels and flown home because of major differences with Athens.
The surprise IMF move came as the European Union told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to stop gambling with his cash-strapped country's future and take the crucial decisions needed to avert a devastating default.
A Greek source told Reuters that the entire Greek delegation that had been negotiating a cash-for-reform deal had also left for home on Thursday, citing continuing disagreements.
"There are major differences between us in most key areas," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in Washington. "There has been no progress in narrowing these differences recently and thus we are well away from an agreement."
Greece needs a deal to unlock aid before the end of the month when it is otherwise set to default on a 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) repayment to the Washington-based IMF.
That could trigger capital controls and possibly push Greece out of the euro zone, with unpredictable consequences for financial markets and the European economy.
Rice said the sticking points remained pensions, taxes and financing. The IMF technical team had returned to the United States but remained "fully engaged" with Athens.
European stocks fell after the IMF comments. Continued...