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Greece challenges IMF over 'debt leak'

BBC News BBC News 3/04/2016
Migrants hold a protest in Greece: One official expresses surprise a deal has not yet been reached amid a pressing migrant crisis © AFP One official expresses surprise a deal has not yet been reached amid a pressing migrant crisis

Greece has demanded an explanation from the IMF over a leaked conversation in which top officials allegedly discuss the Greek bailout.

A transcript, published by Wikileaks, shows the officials discussing ways of putting pressure on Greece, Germany and the EU to get them to wrap up talks.

One of those quoted suggests a crisis "event" may be needed to force a conclusion.

Further negotiations between Athens and its lenders are due next week.

Last year Greece agreed a multi-billion dollar bailout with the EU and IMF that was needed for the country to avoid bankruptcy and stay in the eurozone.

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The conversation on 19 March purportedly involves Poul Thomsen, head of the IMF's Europe department, and Delia Velculescu, leader of the IMF team in Greece, the senior officials in charge of Greece's debt crisis.

Mr Thomsen is quoted as complaining about the pace of talks on reforms Greece has agreed to carry out in exchange for the bailout.

"What is going to bring it all to a decision point?" he asks.

"In the past there has been only one time when the decision has been made and then that was when they were about to run out of money seriously and to default."

Ms Velculescu later agrees "we need an event, but I don't know what that will be".

Mr Thomsen also appears to suggest the IMF could pull out of the bailout to force German Chancellor Angela Merkel to agree to debt relief.

Such a move could be politically difficult for Mrs Merkel, the key figure in the crisis.

"Look..., Mrs Merkel, you face a question, you have to think about what is more costly: to go ahead without the IMF, would the Bundestag say 'the IMF is not on board?' or to pick the debt relief that we think that Greece needs in order to keep us on board? Right?" Mr Thomsen says.

He adds that, if Greece were to default, talks could be further delayed by Britain's referendum on EU membership.

The IMF would not comment on the purported leaks but said its public position on the matter was clear.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said: "As WikiLeaks revealed today, the IMF is planning to stall until July to bring Greece to its knees [again!] in order to force Angela Merkel's hand.

"It's time to stop Greece's fiscal waterboarding by an incompetent, misanthropic troika."

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