IMF, Greece continue talks to finalize bailout

Thu Feb 9, 2012 11:40am EST
 
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund and Greek authorities continue talks to finalize details of a new rescue package following an agreement among the country's political leaders, an IMF spokesman said on Thursday.

"An important initial step was to get the agreement among the coalition leaders in Athens and the next step is to continue the discussions on that basis," spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters. "We should look ahead to the eurogroup meeting and what comes from that," he added.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde was informed by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos of the deal reached among Greece's political leaders, Rice said.

He said the IMF believed it was vital that a deal between Greece and the so-called "troika" of IMF, European Union and European Central Bank partners helped Greece return to sustainable growth by cutting its debt burden and making its economy more competitive.

With Greek elections scheduled in April, the IMF will seek assurances from Greece's political leaders that any economic policy changes after the vote will be consistent with the objectives of a new bailout package, Rice said.

He said there was broad agreement that a major element of reaching a deal is reform of Greece's labor market.

"People can disagree on what particular elements of those reforms might be, and that is the discussion that is ongoing, (but) we all agreed there needs to be labor market reform and the adjustment of wages to align more with productivity," Rice added.

Meanwhile, the ECB refused to say what part it might play in averting an unruly Greek default as it held interest rates at a record low.

Commenting on the ECB rate decision, Rice said with decreasing inflation pressures the IMF continued to see scope for easing monetary policy in the euro area.

"Given the persistent market tensions the ECB should not hesitate to use unconventional monetary policies to secure orderly financial markets, as they have been doing in recent days, he added.

(Reporting By Lesley Wroughton; Editing by James Dalgleish and Andrew Hay)