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Russia's Situation With IMF Said 'Brighter'

Washington, April 22 (RFE/RL) - Russia will have to continue to prove itself, says an official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but things look "a lot brighter" following several days of talks between the fund and senior Russian officials.

The comment from the official, who declined to be identified, came after a flurry of speculation and concern in the west that the 10,100 million dollar Extended Fund Facility (EFF) loan approved only last month for Russia might already be in jeopardy because promised reforms might be abandoned in the heat of the presidential election campaign.

An IMF team of experts and officials has been conducting talks in Moscow for several days and it was there, according to one IMF source, that the most progress was made. "It's very good news," this source said.

However, other officials say that talks in Washington between IMF officials and a delegation of senior Russian finance and banking officials, have made an important contribution. The questions arose because the money, to be parcelled out to Moscow on a monthly basis over the next three years, must be matched by Russian compliance with promised reforms and economic achievements. A flurry of campaign promises in the Presidential race and some actions by Moscow in recent weeks had given rise to fears that it would be too difficult for Russia to keep the promises made. If the compliance is not there, the IMF has said from the beginning, the money will be stopped. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus made that clear in his meetings with Russian leaders before the loan was concluded and he has repeatedly reiterated it since. But IMF officials quietly wanted to be reassured that there would be no surprises and that led to an some intense rounds of discussions with Russian officials. Russian Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin reassured fund officials that all the required actions were being taken and that all the necessary decrees would be issued. He met with the finance ministers and central bank governors of the G-7 group of seven major industrial nations in Washington Sunday and reiterated - according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin - that there was "a committment to full implementation of their IMF agreement and they have to date complied."

Earlier in the G-7 minister's meeting at Blair House across from the White House, Camdessus reassured the finance officials of the U.S., Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and Canada, that - in Rubin's words - Camdessus "is satisfied with Russian compliance to date."

There are still some minor issues to be worked out before the next roughly 340 million dollar installment on the IMF loan is released. It is scheduled for the end of the month. Those matters will be handled by the IMF team in Moscow, according to sources at the fund.

Monday, the Russian delegation in Washington will be focusing on the semi-annual meeting of the IMF's policy making Interim Committee. Composed of top finance officials from 24 nations representing the fund's full membership, the committee is expected to approve a new standard of disclosure and reporting on financial statistics that most countries will adopt.

The committee is also expected to discuss a plan developed by the fund and the World Bank to provide relief to up to 20 nations which are so heavily in debt they have no chance of getting out from under.

Washington's Rubin said the G-7 ministers support the concept, but want to make sure that any debt relief offered by the fund and bank must be paid for out of their current resources and not depend on contributions from member nations.