As debt payments loom for Greece, the IMF hints it will not give Greece any extension, raising fears the cash-strapped country could default, and eventually exit the euro zone. Kirsty Basset reports.
Almost a billion euros - that's how much Greece needs to pay the IMF next month. And late payments won't be an option. That seemed to be the message from IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND MANAGING DIRECTOR CHRISTINE LAGARDE SAYING: "Payment delays have not been granted by the board of the IMF in the last 30 years. And it was eventually granted to a couple of developing countries. And that delay was actually not followed by very productive results." The country's finance ministry denied a Financial Times report that Athens had approached the IMF about delaying its payments. The prospect of a missed payment sent a shiver through the market, pushing up Greek bond yields. Greece could access extra cash if it agrees to difficult reforms - but the leftist Syriza government has so far resisted signing up. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. (SOUNDBITE) (English) YANIS VAROUFAKIS, GREEK FINANCE MINISTER, SAYING: "We will compromise, we will compromise and we will compromise in order to come to a speedy agreement but we are not going to end up 'being' compromised. This not what we were elected for." He says Greece won't sign up to targets it cannot meet. But the country is being urged, for the sake of its own economic stability - to get on with implementing reforms. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND MANAGING DIRECTOR CHRISTINE LAGARDE SAYING: "To do that, you know, it's not done by a political, last-minute accord. It's done by actually looking at measures, committing to reforms, measuring what the outcome will be. It's the tedious work of financial ministers wherever they are, and the lenders." There had been hopes a deal would be reached at a meeting of euro zone finance ministers next Friday, but officials now say that seems too ambitious. And talk of an exit is getting louder. CMC Markets' Michael Hewson. (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) CMC MARKET ANALYST MICHAEL HEWSON SAYING: "I think a Greek exit is inevitable. The status quo is no longer a viable proposition. So really it's a matter of how we manage the process of either restructuring Greece's debts, managing a new program. Because the way things are at the moment, we can't continue the way we are." The country is due to run out of money at the end of the month.