UPDATE 2-Ash delays EU/IMF talks in Greece until Wednesday

* Ash cloud delays EU/ECB arrival in Greece

* IMF says most members of IMF mission in Athens

* Greece says talks delayed until April 21

* Mission seen as potentially leading Greece to tap aid
(Adds IMF comment in paragraphs 6 and 7)

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, April 18 (BestGrowthStock) – A joint mission of European
officials and the International Monetary Fund to Greece has
been delayed by the volcanic ash cloud and will arrive on
Wednesday if possible, Greece’s Finance Ministry said on
Sunday.

Struggling under a huge budget shortfall and debt pile,
Greece requested the talks with the European Union, the
European Central Bank and the IMF last week to go over details
of a potential aid deal agreed by euro zone states.

The mission was scheduled to begin talks on Monday on a
three-year policy program for Greece that investors are
increasingly convinced will lead the debt-stricken country to
tap an IMF/EU aid mechanism.

The ministry said widespread flight cancellations had
forced the meetings back at least two days.

“The new scheduled day for the start of consultations is
Wednesday, April 21, if conditions allow,” the ministry said in
a statement.

An IMF spokesman said most IMF members of the mission had
arrived in Athens and were ready to begin talks with the
government although delays in the arrival of EU officials could
postpone the talks.

“It is possible that the start of discussions will be
delayed until Wednesday, as the Greek authorities may wish to
await the arrival of EU Commission staff in Athens, which has
been delayed,” the spokesman added.

The Mediterranean country of 11 million has yet to ask for
the package, which at an estimated 45 billion euros ($62.91
billion) in the first year would be the largest such bailout
ever attempted.

IMF officials have said the mission should last about 15
days and any agreement would be finalized shortly afterward by
the IMF board.

On Saturday, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said
it would take “one week, two weeks maximum” for euro zone
countries to trigger the mechanism if Greece were to ask for
it.

Investors and Greek media see that as increasingly likely
since a bid by euro zone leaders to flesh out its details has
failed to rein in the spike in borrowing costs that have
complicated Greece’s deficit-cutting plans.

“The certainty is becoming stronger day by day that
resorting to the support mechanism is already a one-way road
and the International Monetary Fund’s role will be upgraded
from a supervisor to a lender,” daily ETHNOS wrote in a Sunday
column.
Stocks

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; additional reporting by
Lesley Wroughton in Washington, writing by Michael Winfrey;
Editing by Charles Dick and Cynthia Osterman)

UPDATE 2-Ash delays EU/IMF talks in Greece until Wednesday