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IMF's Lagarde, Greek minister meet discreetly in Paris

IMF chief Christine Lagarde and Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras held private talks in Paris on Tuesday amid speculation about a new aid plan for Athens, the IMF acknowledged on Thursday.

WASHINGTON: International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde and Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras held private talks in Paris on Tuesday amid speculation about a new aid plan for Athens, the IMF acknowledged on Thursday.

The meeting "took place in Paris... Tuesday with Mme Lagarde and the finance minister Mr Stournaras," said Gerry Rice, a spokesman for the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF's mission chief on the bailout, Poul Thomsen, also attended the meeting, he said.

"The discussions were on the way forward for Greece and on issues of common interest," Rice said, without providing details.

Last week the IMF released US$4.6 billion in aid to Greece after a yearlong delay to ensure Athens was meeting targets set by bailout lenders.

The IMF said at the time the Greek government had exceeded targets on closing its budget gap, but warned of challenges facing the country in fully stabilizing its finances and returning to sustainable growth.

Rice framed the delay in the aid disbursement as an "internal processing issue" that was not unusual, and said there was no link to Lagarde's meeting with the Greek minister.

"It's not usual for management to meet with... ministers of finance from time to time," he said. "We don't communicate on all those private meetings."

The IMF staff report on Greece will be published in the coming days, he said.

Lagarde's meeting came shortly after Germany, Europe's largest economy, raised the prospect of a third rescue package for the struggling eurozone nation.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview published on Sunday that "it's possible that Greece might require further aid, of a limited amount."

The IMF funds are part of a four-year joint package with the European Union (EU) set in March 2012 and worth a total of US$235 billion (173 billion euros) to rescue the sinking Greek economy.

Rice, asked about the prospect of more aid to Greece, said the global crisis lender was focused on its current program that runs until early 2016.

The next IMF review of Greece's performance under the loan program is expected to be finished "after the summer," he said.

Europe's rescue is due to wind up at the end of this year, but officials have said they stand ready to take additional measures to help ease Greece's crushing debt burden, which currently represents about 175 per cent of the economy.

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