IMF 'fully committed' on new Argentina deal, more talks needed

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 10 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund and Argentina are both "fully committed" to working towards a new program, the lender said on Friday, adding more talks are needed after recent meetings between officials from the two sides in Washington.

Argentina is racing to agree a new deal with the IMF to help push back some $45 billion in repayments it cannot make after years of debt and currency crises. A team had recently met with fund staff and "advanced technical work" on the deal.

"There were general understandings on the need to gradually and sustainably improve public finances, while allowing for much-needed infrastructure, technology, and targeted social spending," the IMF said in a statement.

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It said Argentina needed a "multi-pronged approach" to tackle rampant inflation, running at over 50% annually, which would involve reducing monetary financing of the fiscal deficit, positive real interest rates, and wage-price coordination.

"While further discussions are needed, the IMF team and the Argentine authorities remain fully committed to their collective work on a framework and policies for an IMF-supported program," it added.

The two sides have been locked in talks for over a year, but hopes have grown recently about a deal and agreement over a medium-term economic plan, key to restoring the South American nation's credibility with markets.

Gabriela Cerruti, Argentine presidential spokeswoman, said the IMF statement was a reflection that the talks were moving in the right direction.

"It's very good, very positive," she told reporters.

"We are working along the same lines. They recognize a number of advances in the economic reactivation in Argentina, the fiscal improvement that exists currently."

The IMF said that "broad support" for the deal, domestically and internationally, would be key to its success. It added both sides had acknowledged the stronger-than-expected rebound in economic activity and investment this year.

"I think (this statement) is something that the government will be able to sell domestically as a big win," said Marko Papic, chief strategist at alternative investment asset manager Clocktower Group, adding that austerity would be very hard to impose.

"You will see some of the standards that used to be set for emerging markets be eroded," he said.

"It's not like money is just going to fall from the tree, Argentina and others will have to abide by some conditionality. But investors have to start expecting conditionality to be much easier than it was before."

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Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Nicolas Misculin in Buenos Aires and Rodrigo Campos in New York Editing by Frances Kerry and Alistair Bell

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