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Posted on on March 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

At the UN a good journalist, not the ever-wish of the UN – the kind that just reports on the UN Press releases, can have fun indeed and throw some light on what goes on in the world.

We bring here the essence of the EU charade as seen by Matthew Russell Lee in his reporting of March 18 and February 4, 2010.

Matthew looks at the personal involvements of the IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn who might run against President Sarcozy – thus making an internal rivalry of France into one of the centrifugal powers active in the EU. So it is this rather then a German – French rivalry that puts in motion the threat of IMF undoing the EU with its involvement in the crisis named Greece. Could you imagine California going to the IMF, or as a matter of fact, Rhode Island or even Puerto Rico?


With Euro Tanking On Reports of Greece Turning to IMF, of Half Answers, on Dodd Bill and Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee, UNITED NATIONS, March 18, updated.

Strauss-Kahn, ready to “intervene” in Greece, could leave IMF – “hypothetically”

As Angela Merkel speaks darkly about ejecting from the Euro zone non compliant countries like Greece, that country’s renewed threat of turning for help to the International Monetary Fund has the market selling off the Euro.

Near the end of the IMF’s fortnightly press briefing on Thursday morning, spokesperson Caroline Atkinson, beyond saying the IMF has not had a request for financial assistance, declined to describe various aspects of Greece’s relations with the IMF. Her boss, Dominique Strauss Kahn, previously bragged that the IMF would “intervene” in Greece upon request.

France’s finance minister Lagarde, belatedly added to the UN’s climate finance group after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was confronted with the fact he’d named men to all 19 positions on the panel, has said the EU can still be Greece’s interlocutor and helper, not the IMF.

Her president Sarkozy has a personal motive to oppose IMF help to Greece: Strauss Kahn is polling ahead of him for the next French election.

Inner City Press submitted to the IMF during its briefing, but without answer yet, questions about financial reform and the Fund’s apparently stalled consideration of a third tranche to Sri Lanka. It was mostly Greece on Thursday, with few answers from the IMF.

Update: later these two answers came in from the IMF:

Re Senator Dodd’s bill, overall, we support the thrust toward comprehensive reforms that would address the gaps in financial regulation illustrated by the crisis. Strong and prompt implementation would both help to secure financial stability going forward.

Re Sri Lanka, not much update. As you know, staff will visit Colombo after the parliamentary elections and the formation of the new cabinet, to discuss with the government its plan for a 2010 budget.

Best regards,
Yoshiko Kamata
Media Relations, IMF

* * *

IMF’s Strauss-Kahn Coy on Opposing Sarkozy and Intervening in Greece, IMF and Greek Denials, Yemen Deferrals

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 4, updated — The managing director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn bragged Thursday to radio station RTL in his native France that he might leave the IMF early — and perhaps challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency — and that if asked by Greece, the IMF could “intervene” in the country.

Questions about both comments were dodged later on Thursday by the spokesperson for Strauss-Kahn and the IMF, Caroline Atkinson. Strauss-Kahn is quoted that “As it stands… I am planning to see out my mandate. But if you ask me whether in certain circumstances I could reconsider this question, the answer is yes, I could reconsider this question.”

This is consciously leaving open the door to reconsider and leave. But Ms. Aktinson emphasized only his “planning to see out my mandate” and called everything else “hypothetical.”

On Greece, Strauss-Kahn said regally, “I have a mission on the ground to provide technical advice requested by the Greek government. And if we’re asked to intervene, we will.” He added, “I understand that the Europeans don’t want this for the moment.”

Inner City Press on Thursday morning asked Dimitris Droutsas, Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece, to describe his government’s thinking about IMF help. Mr. Droutsas responded on the record, “Categorically may I state, any idea of the IMF… there is no idea about that.”

Still, at Thursday’s IMF biweekly briefing, Ms. Aktinson emphasized the “the IMF” — not just Strauss-Kahn — “had a technical team in Athens because the Greeks are very interested in getting any help from us on the technical implementation of the plan.”

Later on February 4 Droutsas told Inner City Press, on camera, that he was unaware of any IMF team having been in Athens. Video here, last question. One wag wondered, has the IMF become like the CIA, or Xe / Blackwater, whose presence is alleged and denied?

But the IMF under Strauss-Kahn brags about being present. As with the wider UN, the rush to be relevant.

It was surprising, then, that when Inner City Press asked Ms. Aktinson about Yemen — using as the lead in a quote by UK Foreign Secretary (Ivan Lewis) that “we address the economic problems that face Yemen, especially through the IMF program” — Ms. Atkinson said she didn’t have information about Yemen and would have to respond later to Inner City Press. But as February 4 hit midnight, no information was provided. Yemen is in the news, and one would expect the omnipresent Strauss-Kahn to be all over it. We’ll see.

Ms. Atkinson gave a pro-IMF spin in responding to Inner City Press’ question about the IMF’s new loan to Haiti, but we’ll be writing about that later, along with the IMF’s Yemen response.


Top EU officials push for agreement on Greek aid next week



EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Two of the European Union’s most senior officials have called on member states to agree on a financial aid plan for Greece when they meet in Brussels for a summit next week.

It is essential that when we deal with a euro area country there is a European lead and a European responsibility,” EU economy commissioner Olli Rehn said at a conference in Brussels on Friday (19 March).

“It is important that the EU in the course of next week comes to a more specific conclusion, specific political conclusion about the European framework for co-ordinated and conditional action, if needed and required,” he told journalists afterwards.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appears set to go further on Saturday, indicating the EU is ready to provide financial aid to Greece if it is requested, according to a leaked transcript of an interview with French radio, seen by Dow Jones Newswires. And despite recent suggestions that Germany is moving against the idea, Mr Barroso is set to include aid from Berlin in the potential package.

“Germany is ready in case Greece needs it, and so far Greece has not asked for financial support,” the commission president will tell radio channel France 24, according to the document.

All sides stress however that full implementation of the austerity measures announced by Athens in recent weeks is the best means to bring the country’s borrowing costs down.

Roughly €20 billion in Greek bonds are due to mature before the end of May, with Athens indicating its unwillingness to keep offering highly expensive interest rates that threaten to create future refinancing problems down the line.

In the interview transcript however, Mr Barroso does not exclude the possibility of a financing role for the IMF, insisting there would be no shame in this for Europe.

“What I want to remind is that Greece and all the member states of the EU are members of the IMF … EU member states are by far the biggest source of revenue for the IMF,” says the text.

“So it’s not a question of prestige. It’s a question of seeing what is the best way to respond to the situation,” he is set to say.

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