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Argy-bargy in Dubai

The Argentines had fun at the IMF/World Bank meetings in Dubai. First off they secured a $12.55 billion three-year standby credit from the IMF - enough to keep the country current on debt service to, well, the IMF. This was controversial enough, mainly for the near total absence of conditions to which the agreement holds Argentina's government, beyond that of running a 3% of GDP primary surplus in 2004. "It's not a dollars and cents programme," said a rather defensive Anoop Singh, director of the IMF's western hemisphere department.

The meetings were abuzz with talk of abstentions by country representatives on the IMF executive - approval is normally unanimous - in protest at the signal it sent to other troubled sovereign creditors of excessive official sector indulgence.

The Argentines defended the absence of precise numbers, saying this was an unusual deal in advance of debt restructuring negotiations with private creditors. "That is a more important negotiation than with the IMF," a central bank source said.

A greater controversy blew up as Argentina launched these negotiations with bondholders. It proposed to restructure $94.3 billion of bonds issued before 31 December 2001, in 152 issues covering seven currencies and eight governing laws.

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