Lagarde says IMF ‘good distance away’ from Greece program, wants ‘privacy’ for staff

Lagarde says IMF ‘good distance away’ from Greece program, wants ‘privacy’ for staff

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde has said that the Washington-based institution is a “good distance away” from agreeing on a program for Greece, while asking the Greek government to respect the privacy of IMF staff.

“We are still a good distance away from having a coherent program,” Lagarde said in a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras late Sunday.

The IMF chief was responding to a letter Tsipras sent a day earlier, a few hours after whistleblowing website WikiLeaks published a transcript of an apparently secretly recorded telephone conversation between IMF officials discussing the Greek bailout.

According to the text, the officials suggested the Fund may threaten to pull out of the country's bailout as a tactic to force EU lenders to offer more debt relief.

The alleged transcript documented a March 19 conference call between three senior IMF officials discussing tactics to apply pressure on Greece, Germany and the EU to reach a deal on the unfinished bailout review in April.

“We can only support a program that is credible and based on realistic assumptions, and that delivers on its objective of setting Greece on a path of robust growth while gradually restoring debt sustainability,” she said.

Lagarde flatly rejected Tsipras’s interpretation of references made by the IMF officials to an “event” in the WikiLeaks publication. The Greek premier had asked for clarification on whether there was an attempt by the Fund to force Greece towards bankruptcy, or a “credit event,” so an agreement between lenders could be reached on the country’s bailout.

“Any speculation that IMF staff would consider using a credit event as a negotiating tactic is simply nonsense,” responded the IMF chief.

“The IMF conducts its negotiations in good faith, not by way of threats, and we do not communicate through leaks,” Lagarde said in the letter.

She also urged the Greek government to “ensure an environment that respects the privacy of their internal discussions and take all necessary steps to guarantee their personal safety.”

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