ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will repay a loan tranche to the IMF on time on April 9, its deputy finance minister said on Friday, seeking to quell fears of default after a flurry of contradictory statements on the issue in recent days.
Greece is fast running out of cash and its euro zone and International Monetary Fund lenders have frozen bailout aid until the new leftist-led government reaches agreement on a package of reforms.
That prompted the interior minister to suggest this week that Athens would prioritize wages and pensions over the roughly 450 million euro ($490 million) payment to the IMF, though the government denied that was its stance.
Euro zone officials then quoted Greece as saying it will run out of money on April 9, which the finance ministry denied.
"We strive to be able to pay our obligations on time," Dimitris Mardas told Greece's Skai TV. "We are ready to pay on April 9."
Adding to the confusion, German magazine Der Spiegel quoted a finance ministry general secretary, Nikos Theocharakis, as saying Greece would probably not pay next week's IMF tranche, prompting a further denial from the Greek finance ministry.
Theocharakis said Greece would be "close to the end" on April 9 and called the technical teams from its creditors "completely useless," according to an extract of the article due to be published on Saturday.
"Mr. Theocharakis never characterized the technical teams of the institutions with the phrase attributed to him," the ministry said in a statement. "On the contrary ... he referred to them as saying they include 'top-notch people with impressive skills.'"
Germany's Spiegel Online quoted Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt as saying that Greece postponing the repayment due on April 9 was "out of the question", otherwise a Greek exit from the euro zone could no longer be ruled out.
He said the Eurogroup would not release further funds to Greece until Athens implemented some of the reforms it had promised.
Athens has not received bailout funds since August last year and has resorted to measures such as borrowing from state entities via repo transactions to tide it through the cash crunch.
The government is hoping approval of its latest reforms package will unlock remaining aid of 7.2 billion euros under its EU/IMF bailout and lead to the return of about 1.9 billion euros in profits made by the European Central Bank on Greek bonds.
Mardas said, without providing figures, that state revenue in March had topped targets and that the government had made progress in talks with lenders on its latest reforms list.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Greece would receive fresh funds only once its creditors approve the reforms Athens has presented.
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; and Karolina Tagaris in Athens and Michelle Martin in Berlin; Editing by Hugh Lawson/Ruth Pitchford