REFILE-UPDATE 1-IMF would help Greece if asked -Strauss-Kahn

(Fixes typo in 2nd paragraph)

* IMF willing to help Greece if asked

* Greek finmin sees economy growing again in H2

(Adds IMF chief quotes, Greek finance minister comments to FT)

PARIS/ATHENS, Feb 4 (BestGrowthStock) – The International Monetary
Fund would help Greece if asked but is confident the country’s
government will take the necessary action to deal with its
fiscal crisis, the head of the fund said on Thursday.

Greece’s three-year plan to repair public finances got
conditional European Union approval on Wednesday. But Brussels
vowed to hold the country strictly to its austerity plan as
market turmoil spread to other euro zone periphery countries.
[ID:nLDE6121AC]

“We are there to help. I have a mission in place providing
technical advice at the request of the Greek government and if
they ask me to intervene, we will do it,” IMF Managing Director
Dominique Strauss-Kahn told France’s RTL radio.

“But I totally understand the Europeans who want to try and
sort the problem out amongst themselves.”

He said the Greek situation was serious but did not think
the country was on the verge of bankruptcy.

“The Greek situation is very serious. The government of
George Papandreou, from this point of view, is aware of the
difficulties. I have confidence that Prime Minister Papandreou
will take the necessary measures. But they are very difficult
measures,” IMF’s Strauss Kahn said.

He said Greece’s socialist government, which came to power
in October last year, had not campaigned on austerity measures
and faces a difficult situation politically.

Despite the drastic measures to reduce a budget deficit
which ballooned to 12.7 percent of GDP last year, Greece’s
finance minister expects the economy, struggling with its first
recession since 1993, to start expanding again in the second
half of this year.

“We are expecting, from mid-2010, a return to positive
growth rates,” Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told the
Financial Times, forecasting an overall GDP contraction of just
0.3 percent this year despite the austerity measures.

On Tuesday, Greece announced it would slap a 10-15 percent
hike on fuel taxes and extend a wage freeze in the broader
public sector to bring the deficit under control.

Papaconstantinou said the real test for Greece, which has
seen its borrowing costs skyrocket as markets fret over its debt
load and soaring deficit, would be implementing the fiscal plan.

“We have set out a full programme, which once implemented
without deviation will be more than enough,” he told the paper.

Markets remain unconvinced.

The yield spread of 10-year Greek government bonds over
German Bunds widened by 12 points to 360 basis points on
Thursday but well below a euro lifetime high above 400 basis
points hit last week.

Investors are also testing other euro zone nations with
large debts.

The premium investors demand to hold Portuguese government
bonds rather than benchmark German Bunds widened nine basis
points on the day to 154 basis points ahead of a parliament vote
the government said could make it tough to cut its budget
deficit gap. [ID:nLDE6121RS]

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(Reporting by Anna Willard in Paris and George Georgiopoulos in
Athens, editing by Mike Peacock)

REFILE-UPDATE 1-IMF would help Greece if asked -Strauss-Kahn