Germany said Friday it isn't ruling out financial aid from the International Monetary Fund for Greece, but insisted no decision is needed now, even as the EU executive chief called for an agreement as soon as possible to ease the debt crisis.
EU leaders will meet next week to strike a deal to help Greece, but Germany, which has the 16-nation eurozone's biggest economy, has been reluctant to pledge any direct financial aid.
On Thursday, Greece warned it would be forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund for help, which would be an embarrassment for the single currency bloc, if the European Union fails to extend any concrete support package to help reduce its market borrowing rates.
"We haven't ruled out IMF financial assistance," Ulrich Wilhelm, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, told reporters. "This question is open."
However, he stressed that "at this point in time, decisions have not been taken and decisions are not pending."
Greece hasn't asked for formal aid, and "we trust and believe that Greece can resolve its problems itself with its consolidation efforts," Wilhelm said.
Other European countries, however, seem more willing to extend aid, possibly in the form of bilateral loans, if needed.
In an interview provided Friday to The Associated Press, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told France 24 TV that what "we should have now is as soon as possible some kind if mechanism prepared just in case."
Merkel's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, has argued that the eurozone should be able to resolve its own problems without calling in outside help and — with Merkel's backing — has advocated the creation of a European Monetary Fund that could provide aid in future crises.
"From this fundamental conviction you can certainly conclude that, in the case of Greece, he would be very reticent toward financial aid from the IMF," said Schaeuble's spokesman, Michael Offer.
Wilhelm said the government would agree on a formal position if and when decisions are needed.
Any IMF member "can decide itself whether it seeks IMF aid or not -- that is not a move that is subject to others' involvement in the decision," Wilhelm noted.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has said he expects EU leaders to decide at the March 25-26 summit on a blueprint of aid from the 16 eurozone countries.
He says he isn't asking for money but a clear mechanism for financial help in case Greece can't afford to borrow from markets.
Papandreou has said that going to the IMF, which imposes austerity measures on governments in return for financial aid, wouldn't hurt his country because Greece has already followed IMF advice and made painful spending cuts.
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