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GREEK CRISIS TO DOMINATE IMF MEETING

By NBF NEWS

The debt crisis in Greece looks set to dominate a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, British Broadcasting Corporation reported on Saturday.

Greek Finance Minister, Mr. George Papaconstantinou is due to hold talks with IMF head, Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn and European Union economy commissioner Mr. Olli Rehn.

On Friday, Greece asked for an EU-IMF bailout of its debt-ridden economy.

Ahead of the meeting, the Group of 20 big economies said the world was emerging faster than expected from its deep recession.

After talks in Washington on Friday, G20 finance ministers said the pace of the recovery was largely due to the huge amounts of government money pumped into national economies.

Saturday's focus is set to be on the IMF meeting and consideration of Greece's request for emergency loans totalling 40 billion euros in the first year.

Nations using the euro would contribute 30 billion euros with the rest coming from the IMF.

The terms of the loans have not been agreed, but Strauss-Kahn has said the IMF would 'move expeditiously' in response to Greece's appeal.

Rehn said he thought the EU-IMF package could be completed by early May.

The funds are needed later that month when a large tranche of Greece's debt comes due for renewal.

German officials have said Berlin will do its bit.

But there has been public opposition to funding a bail-out and Chancellor Angela Merkel said any aid would come with 'very strict conditions', including a credible savings plan.

The Greek government has already taken austerity measures, including cutting government workers' pay, freezing pensions and raising taxes.

The cuts have proved unpopular, prompting strikes and demonstrations.

There is rising anger at the involvement of the IMF and opposition to the bailout is increasing, says the BBC's Gavin Hewitt in Athens.

On Friday evening, several thousand protesters took to the streets of Athens to demonstrate against further austerity measures.

The government's cost of borrowing on international markets has spiralled, making it prohibitively expensive for Greece to borrow money from investors to service its debt.

Athens had hoped that just the promise of EU support, agreed last month, would be enough to reassure markets and help its recovery.

But Greece's problems have continued to hit investor confidence in the euro and other European economies.

At its meeting on Friday, G20 finance ministers said government efforts to jump-start recovery were paying off.

But with the global economy recovering from the financial crisis, G20 members should look at reducing their stimulus spending and allow ultra-low interest rates to rise to more normal levels.

Thanks to 'decisive and coordinated measures at home and across the G20', said United States Treasury Secretary Mr. Timothy Geithner, 'the world economy is growing and the financial system is healing'.

The finance ministers also asked the IMF to analyse in detail a proposal to levy taxes on big banks and other financial institutions to stem risk and pay for possible financial failures.