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IMF money for Greece contingent on debt buy back

By Anna Yukhananov

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund will not disburse Greece's next bailout tranche until the country completes a voluntary buy back of its debt, an IMF spokesman said on Thursday.

Eurogroup finance ministers and the IMF agreed earlier this week to conduct the buy back as part of measures to make Greece's debt sustainable and release urgently needed loans that help the near-bankrupt economy stay afloat.

"The (IMF) managing director (Christine Lagarde) said once progress has been made on specifying and delivering on the commitments agreed, in particular the implementation of debt buy backs, she would be in a position to recommend to our executive board the completion of the first review of Greece's program," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters.

The approval of the IMF's board is required before Greece can get its next installment of aid from the Fund. In December, Greece's international lenders are set to give it 23.8 billion euros ($31 billion) of aid to prop up its teetering banks, and 10.6 billion euros in budget assistance to help the government pay wages and pensions.

Rice said the IMF expects the results of the buy back by December 13, when European finance ministers said they plan to release their share of Greece's aid.

But Rice declined to comment on what specific price the IMF would be looking for when Greece buys back its own bonds from private investors.

Rice also said the IMF was not planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss an IMF program, as the Ukrainian government had not asked for a visit.

The IMF, Ukraine's key lender, froze its $15 billion aid program for the former Soviet republic last year after Kiev, wary of a political backlash, chose not to follow the Fund's recommendation to raise household gas and heating prices.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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