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IMF board says Fund cannot join Greece bailout talks now: FT

[WASHINGTON] The International Monetary Fund can participate in discussions over the latest financial rescue for Greece but cannot officially join the talks until after the fiscally beleaguered nation has agreed to comprehensive reforms, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

The FT report, citing a confidential summary it obtained of the IMF board's meeting on Wednesday, said that IMF staff had determined that while the Fund could participate in negotiations aimed at providing a third round of relief to Greece, the country was disqualified for any IMF bailout given its high debt levels and poor reform record.

"The Fund will only decide whether to participate during a 'stage two' after Greece has 'agreed on a comprehensive set of reforms' and, crucially, after eurozone bailout lenders have'agreed on debt relief'," the FT reported, adding that IMF staff were not in full agreement on the issue.

The decision means that an IMF decision on any further bailout for Greece could stretch for months and possibly into 2016 and raises questions about whether it will ultimately join euro zone efforts, according to the newspaper's report.

The European Union, led by Germany, and the IMF had agreed on a new 86 billion euro aid package to keep Athens afloat, and negotiations on the package were continuing on Thursday. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government is seeking to wrap up negotiations in time for a major debt payment due on Aug 20.

Germany's representative to the IMF board said that Berlin wanted the Fund to move alongside European efforts and without it's parallel efforts now faced having to push through the bailout on its own in just weeks, the FT reported.

REUTERS