November 15, 2012 / 3:41 PM / in 5 years

IMF suggests Europe do more to help Greece

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund has done what it can to help Greece reach debt sustainability, a Fund spokesman said, leaving the window open for further action by the indebted country’s European lenders.

“The IMF has done what it needs to do in the context of its framework,” IMF spokesman William Murray told reporters on Thursday. “Clearly there has to be other actions taken to reach debt sustainability.”

When asked whether that meant Greece’s European lenders would need to do more, Murray said that is “presumably” who it meant. He declined to elaborate on what actions are needed.

The IMF has clashed with Greece’s other lenders, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, over how to make Greece’s debt mountain manageable.

The disagreement has held up release of the next 31 billion euros ($39 billion) in emergency loans Athens needs to stay afloat.

Murray said talks were continuing, pointing to the fact that IMF chief Christine Lagarde was cutting short a visit to Asia to attend a crucial Eurogroup meeting next week.

“I think that’s the clearest example I can give you that talks are not deadlocked,” he said.

Murray said the IMF was sticking to its target of Greek debt reaching 120 percent of national income by 2020 in order to be sustainable in the long term.

“It’s in Greece’s interest, it’s in Europe’s interests, it’s in the world’s interests, that Greece have a sustainable debt position,” he said.

But the country seems unlikely to reach that target on its current trajectory, with total debt expected to rise to 190 percent of gross domestic product next year.

The IMF also reiterated calls for the United States to act swiftly in resolving its ‘fiscal cliff’: $600 billion worth of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that will kick in early next year unless the U.S. Congress can reach a deal.

Without a deal, the United States is likely to slip into recession, pulling the global economy down with it, Murray said.

“A significant development is that discussions (on the fiscal cliff) have now been initiated; that is heartening,” Murray said. “Our message is: deal with it, expeditiously.”

($1 = 0.7856 euros)

Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by James Dalgleish

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