Lebanon deputy PM: Talks with IMF focus on budget, banking sector, exchange rate

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A participant stands near a logo of IMF at the International Monetary Fund - World Bank Annual Meeting 2018 in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Johannes P. Christo

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Jan 24 (Reuters) - Lebanon's deputy prime minister said a round of talks with the International Monetary Fund that began on Monday would cover topics including the budget, the banking sector and the exchange rate.

Saadeh al-Shami added in a statement that this round would continue for two weeks.

"We hope the negotiations will be concluded as soon as possible, but given the complexity of the issues, it is possible that other rounds will be held until we reach an agreement," he said.

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The IMF said a team led by Ernesto Ramirez Rigo, IMF mission chief for Lebanon, met with authorities on Monday to set the agenda for talks aimed at helping them formulate a comprehensive reform strategy to address Lebanon's "deep economic challenges."

IMF officials have been engaging in recent months with Lebanese authorities and other stakeholders, including civil society and the international community, about reforms aimed at reducing corruption, strengthening accountability, and restoring confidence in the economy, a spokesperson said.

"The reforms needed must restore macroeconomic stability, debt sustainability, financial sector solvency, and a return to high and more inclusive growth over the medium term, while strengthening the social safety net to support the vulnerable," the spokesperson said.

"It is important that there be broad societal support for the implementation of a strategy so it can be supported by any future government," they added. "Lebanon's challenges are deep and complex, and will require time and commitment.”

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Reporting by Nayera Abdallah; additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington; editing by Gareth Jones and Richard Pullin

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