BERLIN Feb 16 IMF participation is no longer
crucial for Greece's bailout programme, a German euro-lawmaker
close to Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, breaking
ranks with Berlin's official line that the programme would end
if the Fund pulled out.
The International Monetary Fund has yet to decide if it will
fund the bailout, Greece's third, and says Athens can only hit
mandated fiscal targets if it is granted significant debt
The German government - gearing up for what are forecast to
be close-run national elections in September - opposes debt
relief, and also says the current programme could only continue
if the Fund joined in.
But Manfred Weber, who leads the conservative bloc in the
European Parliament, said that the IMF's role was no longer
"If the IMF insists on a debt cut, then one should let it
go," he told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. "Europe can
stand on its own feet now."
The impasse between Greece's international lenders over the
country's fiscal targets has slowed progress on a bailout review
and rekindled fears of a new financial crisis in Europe.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said last week
that Greece would have to leave the euro zone if it failed to
meet its bailout commitments, while the IMF needed to stay on
"(IMF involvement) is indispensable for us. That's what the
Bundestag agreed on," Hans Michelbach, a senior member of
Merkel's conservative bloc in the lower house of parliament,
told Reuters on Thursday.
The conservatives' parliamentary floor leader, Volker
Kauder, told Focus magazine: "We insist on the commitments. And
the International Monetary Fund must remain on board. Otherwise,
we can't approve any further aid."
Both Michelbach and Weber are senior members of the CSU, the
Bavarian sister party of Merkel's CDU.
The IMF argues that Greece will not achieve a targeted
fiscal surplus before debt servicing costs of 3.5 percent of GDP
unless it adopts more austerity measures and gets debt relief.
The issue is crucial because the higher the surplus and the
longer it is maintained, the less the need for further debt
Berlin, which agrees Greece needs more reforms to improve
its competitiveness, believes the Fund can add credibility to
the Greek bailout.
EU officials have called IMF projections "pessimistic".
On Wednesday, European Commissioner for Economic and
Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici said the bailout review talks
had made progress, but more action was needed to wrap them up.
(Reporting by Gernot Heller and Michael Nienaber, editing by