* EU-IMF report on Greek debt set to be delayed
* EU, U.S. want to avoid economic shocks before Nov.
* EU keen to help Obama over Romney - sources
By Luke Baker
BRUSSELS, Sept 21 An EU-IMF report into whether
Greece's debt is manageable looks set to be delayed until after
Nov. 6 because policymakers want to avoid any shock to the
global economy before the U.S. election, EU officials and
The report by the 'troika' of Greece's foreign lenders --
the European Commission, European Central Bank and International
Monetary Fund -- was expected during October, possibly before a
meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Oct. 8.
The study provides the basis for decisions on whether to
disburse the next tranche of aid to Athens, which may otherwise
run out of money to pay wages and pensions, default on its debt
and perhaps be forced to leave the euro area.
Differences inside the troika about the precise extent of
Greece's debt problems, combined with political pressure to hold
off for another few weeks, look likely to mean a delay until
mid-November. In the meantime, Greece will be kept afloat by
issuing short-term treasury bills and its banks will get access
to emergency funds from the Greek central bank.
"The Obama administration doesn't want anything on a
macroeconomic scale that is going to rock the global economy
before Nov. 6," a senior EU official told Reuters, adding that
previous troika reports had also slipped.
Several sources in Germany said top officials in Washington
had made clear in numerous conversations with their German and
European counterparts that they would prefer no surprises before
the tightly contested election.
Most polls show President Barack Obama leading his
Republican rival Mitt Romney, but voters remain sensitive to any
event that could damage U.S. economic growth and hurt jobs.
"It's likely the troika report will be pushed back beyond
the U.S. election date," said a Berlin official who spoke on
condition of anonymity. Asked if that was a special request from
Washington, he replied: "They don't want any surprises."
The European Commission's spokesman on finance said on
Friday the troika would take a week-long break from its work in
Athens, the second time it has interrupted its mission since it
began in late July, adding to expectations of a delay.
"The inspectors are expected to return to Athens in about a
week," spokesman Simon O'Connor told reporters.
"As for a conclusion of the mission, I don't have any dates
to share with you," he said, adding that it should be some time
during October. "We can't say exactly when."
"THEY DON'T WANT ROMNEY"
Even if the mission does conclude its work on the ground in
October, it will still take some time to write up its findings,
the focus of which will be whether Greece will ever be able to
get its debt down to a sustainable level.
That analysis will either show that Athens can reduce its
debts below 120 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, as
required by the IMF, or that the target will be missed.
If Greece is off-target by a wide margin, as many economists
predict, financial markets will react negatively, concerned that
another round of debt restructuring will be required to get
government finances back on a stable footing.
A negative troika report could also revive pressure to force
Greece out of the single currency area with potentially
devastating knock-on consequences for other European countries
and the global economy.
European leaders have the same interests as the U.S.
president in not destabilising markets -- their own economies
have also been badly affected by the fallout from Greece, where
the sovereign debt crisis began in January 2010.
But one source said EU leaders' motives went beyond
macroeconomic stability. They also had political reasons to
avoid rocking the boat before the U.S. election.
"As far as European leaders are concerned, they don't want
Romney, so they're probably willing to do anything to help
Obama's chances," said the source, an EU official involved in
finding solutions to the debt crisis.
The problem for Obama is that if Europe's leaders are seen,
implicitly or otherwise, to be working to bolster his reelection
chances, it could provide ammunition for the Romney campaign.
European leaders have repeatedly been accused of acting too
slowly and in a confused way to resolve the crisis, with a
knock-on negative impact on the United States. If they are now
seen to be allying with Obama, it could dent his popularity.