IMF insists no bailout talks took place before April 2010

The International Monetary Fund has attempted to defuse a row in Greece over when the Washington-based organization began talks about a possible bailout with Prime Minister George Papandreou.

In a statement issued late on Wednesday, the IMF said that contacts between its managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Papandreou as early as November 2009 ? six months before Greece made an official appeal for assistance ? were to do with matters of know-how.

?The discussions that the IMF had with Greece related to the request from Greece to the fund for technical assistance in the management of public finances and in fighting tax evasions,? the IMF said.

?There were no negotiations or any agreements between Greek authorities and the IMF for financial assistance before Greece made an official request at the end of April 2010.?

Opposition parties raised questions on Wednesday about Prime Minister George Papandreou?s credibility after a previously unheard recording of Strauss-Kahn suggested that the Greek premier had turned to the Washington-based organization with Athens?s debt problems much earlier than previously thought.

On Tuesday night Alpha TV aired an extract of an interview that Strauss-Kahn gave as part of a French documentary. The clip broadcast was not included in the film and had not been made public before. In it, the Frenchman admitted that the there had been ?behind-the-scenes contacts? between Papandreou and the IMF for some time.

Strauss-Kahn suggested that Greece and the IMF were able to agree on the details of the emergency loan memorandum in May 2010 in two weeks because so much groundwork had been done earlier. ?The Greek authorities wanted the IMF to intervene but Papandreou could not tell his people for political reasons,? said the IMF chief.

He indicated the Greek premier started consulting Strauss-Kahn about some form of assistance as early as November 2009, a few days after PASOK was elected to office.

New Democracy spokesman Yiannis Michelakis suggested the comments backed up the party?s doubts about whether the memorandum?s signing was constitutional. The Communist Party said it did not need Strauss-Kahn?s comments to work out ?what huge lies? the government has been telling. The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) said it was proof Papandreou did all he could to ensure Greece ?ended up in the arms of the IMF.?

The government played down the affair, citing comments made by Papandreou on December 11 in which he said that he was in contact with Strauss-Kahn.

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