ASIA

Germany and France, paving the way for a European Union plan to aid Greece, agreed to involve the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, in any potential EU package for the debt-burdened nation, a German Finance Ministry official said. The shift toward an IMF role before an EU summit that starts on Thursday came a week after euro-area finance ministers agreed to a European framework for a bailout. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who says her taxpayers should not pay for the region’s biggest budget deficit, then pushed for a greater IMF role. That reversal put her at odds with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who called for an EU solution. “It seems like a U-turn but it’s a sensible solution,” said Julian Callow, Chief European Economist for Barclays Capital in London. “The IMF brings credibility and transparency and anything that gives investors a degree of comfort is good. The situation has been from the outset that there is no European mechanism in place to deal with a situation like this. This is what the IMF is there for.” With allies dropping their resistance to IMF involvement, Merkel agreed to sign on to a statement at the Brussels summit March 25-26 to create a mechanism to aid indebted members, including Greece, Die Welt reported on Tuesday. A government spokesperson denied that Merkel had agreed to an EU plan. While German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble resisted IMF involvement, he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that turning to the Fund to help Greece “can and must only be an exception.”

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