WASHINGTON The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday it is still fully engaged in talks to join the Greek bailout program and has not yet decided on what role it will take.
The IMF's comment came after two sources with direct knowledge of the Greek bailout talks told Reuters on Saturday that negotiations for the fund to commit financial resources to the program are making little headway and the IMF likely would accept a special advisory status with limited powers.
"We remain fully engaged, with the aim of reaching agreement on a program that the fund can support with a new arrangement, as requested by the authorities," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in an emailed statement on Sunday. "In this regard a mission team will visit Athens soon."
Poul Thomsen, the IMF's European Department director, said on Friday an IMF team would visit Athens in about a week or two to discuss a new program.
The IMF has been holding out for more than a year over the terms under which it would participate in any new Greek bailout, arguing that the fiscal targets set in the European bailout are unrealistic without major debt relief for Greece.
The sources told Reuters the IMF is increasingly resigned to European resistance to further Greek debt relief and is now in talks to accept a newly created role that would keep it at the table and let it play a part with limited formality.
The sources said the exact nature of the IMF's role has not been decided. Under the proposed special advisory role, it would have more powers than a simple adviser but would not be doing the regular monitoring that comes with a formal role, they said, adding that this would maintain IMF involvement while effectively sidestepping the issue of debt relief.
A spokesman for the European Commission declined to comment on the matter.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble told reporters on Saturday that he was confident the IMF would take part in the Greek program. Schaeuble, however, has resisted further debt relief for Greece and has insisted that Greece's fiscal problems are not the result of an unsustainable debt level, but because the country's economy needs to regain its competitiveness and begin growing again.
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi and David Lawder; Editing by Bill Trott)