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Serbia seeks IMF emergency loan

16 March 09 11:47 GMT

Serbia has begun talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to agree an emergency loan worth up to 2bn euros (£1.8bn).

The money will be used primarily to strengthen the country's hard currency reserves and stabilise the local currency - the Serbian dinar.

"We need financial help to cover this year's budget deficit," said trade minister Slobodan Milosavljevic.

The talks are expected to last for up to 10 days, said Serbian officials.

They added that the IMF was likely to insist on big cuts in Serbian public spending as a condition of the loan.

'Major turbulence'

The IMF already approved loans of 520m euros to Serbia earlier this year.

The worsening global economic downturn means the country now needs more aid.

"We need between 1.5bn-2bn euros in order to get through this difficult year without major turbulence," said Mr Milosavljevic.

Government ministers hope that if a further loan can be agreed with the IMF, it will be able to borrow more money from other institutions on more favourable terms.

Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said the Serbian economy should avoid recession and grow by 0.5% this year.

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