(Adds quotes, background on IMF programme)
KIEV Feb 6 Ukraine expects to wrap up talks
with the International Monetary Fund this week on the final
details it must address to unlock a further batch of loans under
its $17.5 billion bailout, the country's finance minister said
Disbursements under the programme have seen repeated delays
over the past two years due to stop-start progress on reforms.
The latest tranche of $1 billion was held up by slow budget
negotiations and concerns about the banking system.
In mid-January, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said it would
only take a few more days to sort out technical details and
unlock the loans, but there have been no clear statements on the
progress of talks since then.
"I hope that it will be agreed before the end of the week or
earlier," Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk told a briefing.
So far Ukraine has received $7.7 billion under the
programme, helping to pull the economy back from the brink of
bankruptcy while Kiev remains embroiled in a costly conflict
against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.
After the latest consultations with the IMF conclude, the
disbursement of the fourth tranche must be approved by the
Fund's Board at a meeting in Washington.
The main roadblock had been issues relating to the low
capitalisation of the banking system, but Ukraine sought to
resolve this by nationalising the country's largest lender,
Privatbank, in December.
"Previously there was a problem with Privat. Now there
aren't any systemic problems like that," Danylyuk said.
He reiterated that raising the pension age was not part of
the discussions with the IMF relating to pension reform. "There
won't be an increase to the age. We believe this to be wrong and
not completely fair," he said.
Pension reforms have been repeatedly pushed back as they
face stiff opposition in parliament.
Nevertheless, Danylyuk said Ukraine needed the next IMF
loans to be disbursed on schedule.
"All four tranches that we have planned for this year must
be received," he said.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Alessandra Prentice;
Editing by Gareth Jones)