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IMF says Greece may need debt relief

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(WASHINGTON) - The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that Greece may need debt relief but rejected news reports that it had pushed for it at a eurozone meeting last month.

"During the Eurogroup meeting in Riga last month, the IMF did not push for large-scale debt relief, as some press reports have stated," the IMF said in a brief emailed statement.

"In the meeting, IMF European Department Director Poul Thomsen pointed to the tradeoff that needs to be made in reaching agreement in the current discussions, namely that the more distant the measures agreed and targets are from the original commitment in 2012, the higher would be the need for additional financing and debt relief to make the country's debt sustainable."

The IMF statement came after Greece and its creditors ruled out Tuesday any bailout deal to avoid bankruptcy at a crunch meeting next week, with Athens blaming divisions between the IMF and the European Union for blocking an agreement.

"Serious divergences and contradictions between the creditors, the European Union and International Monetary Fund, are hindering the negotiations" with Greece, the Greek government said in a statement.

Athens said this was "the exclusive responsibility" of the EU and IMF, which have together supplied the two bailouts that debt-hit Greece has had since 2010.

Greece's comments came as Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis led a troupe of Greek officials to Paris and Brussels in the hope of winning financial breathing space and avoiding a possible exit from the euro.

Greece faces about one billion euros in payment to the IMF over the next week, with larger amounts due later.

Eurozone ministers will meet Monday in Brussels and there had been high hopes to end the three-month standoff over the new leftist government's refusal to implement reforms that would unlock 7.2 billion euros ($8.1 billion) in bailout cash.

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