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Greece edges closer to third bailout as it formally requests IMF help



Greece has taken a step closer to a huge third international bailout by formally requesting help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but sources said “logistical problems” were delaying the start of talks in Athens.

The Greek government, which is seeking a three-year bailout worth up to €86bn (£60bn) to avert financial meltdown and a chaotic exit from the eurozone, had initially planned to go without fresh help from the IMF as it considers the agency too wedded to draconian austerity measures.

But in a letter to Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos said Greece was “seeking a new loan” from the IMF.

In the letter, which was dated 23 July and released to the public on Friday, he noted that the Greek parliament has passed two laws enshrining a series of tough reforms demanded by the creditors, including tax rises and a pensions overhaul, in a step closer to finalising the deal.

“The Greek authorities have committed to implement a number of policies that would enhance fiscal sustainability, strengthen fiscal stability, sustain long-term growth and, importantly, spread the cost of economic adjustment in a fair way,” the finance minister wrote.

“It is our belief that it will take several quarters before the Greek economy faces up to these challenges and returns to a vigorous and sustainable path to growth with fairness and social inclusion,” he added.

The IMF confirmed receipt of the request, saying that it will next discuss with Greek and EU authorities “the timing and the modalities” of talks on the next bailout.

Tsakalotos said that Greece, which has been bailed out by the European Union, European Central Bank and IMF twice since 2010, had already formally requested a new three-year loan from the eurozone’s bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.

Greece’s existing aid programme from the IMF runs until early 2016, and the letter appears to have been a gesture of goodwill as a new request is not technically necessary.

The request came amid an apparent delay in getting the ball rolling on talks to finalise the package. Negotiators from the creditors, known collectively as the troika, have not set foot in Athens for more than a year as hostility has grown between the two sides.

Greece had said on Thursday that negotiators would fly in to Athens on Friday to begin the talks, but this swiftly became “in the coming days”, according to a European commission spokeswoman, with the location of the talks and offices for the creditors apparently among the sticking points.

“The mission is being prepared. We are still discussing a location as we have to find an accessible place to work, near the ministries,” a source close to the negotiations said.

The two sides are under enormous pressure to hammer out the rescue deal before 20 August, when Athens is scheduled to make a loan repayment of €3.2bn to the ECB that it cannot currently afford.

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