IMF to visit Greece, Cyprus next week

The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it will send a fact-finding mission to Athens early next week for talks with Greece's new government and signaled it was open to discussing target adjustments under the country's economic program.

An IMF spokesman said negotiations on Greece's 130-billion-euro joint bailout with European partners would take place after the initial visit next week.

"This mission will assess the recent economic developments,» IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice told a news briefing. «The objectives of the program as agreed remain the basis for those discussions, but as we have said before, if the new government has ideas on how those program objectives can be achieved, then we are open to those discussions."

Greece's newly elected government has vowed to renegotiate the bailout while staying in the euro zone. European officials have acknowledged that a deeper-than-expected recession and weeks of political campaigning since the country's election in May have pushed Greece's IMF-EU program off track.

The United States, the IMF's largest member country, has also signaled it would support new program timelines given delays caused by political developments in Greece, but that objectives to reform the economy should remain.

The IMF also said it planned an initial visit to Cyprus next week for initial talks with Cypriot officials on their request for IMF financial assistance.

Rice said the IMF would join the European Commission and European Central Bank in talks with Cypriot authorities, which have requested help from Europe to prop up its banks. Since the IMF does not lend to sectors, its loan will be targeted at economic reforms.

Cyprus is heavily exposed to debt-laden Greece and its banks have been shut out of international debt markets for over a year.

[Reuters] - 

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