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IMF chief says hopes for loan deal with Egypt

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), takes her seat as she arrives for her opening news conference
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), takes her seat as she arrives for her opening news conference

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday more work is needed to conclude loan talks with Egypt but expressed hope that a deal can be struck.

An IMF mission left Cairo on Tuesday after 12 days of talks without an agreement on a proposed $4.8 billion loan needed to ease a deepening economic crisis in the Arab state.

Further talks between the IMF and Egypt's top finance officials are expected in Washington this week on the sidelines of IMF and World Bank meetings.

"We have not concluded yet, and there is clearly more work to be done, more numbers to be aligned, and worked on," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told a news conference. "I very much hope that we can succeed. I very much hope that we do, because the country is exposed to vulnerabilities."

Egypt reached a deal with the IMF in November but postponed its ratification later because of unrest in Cairo. Negotiations resumed after Egypt submitted updated economic data to the IMF.

"We have gone back to the drawing board. We have been working with the Egyptian authorities, a team was on the ground until a few days ago," Lagarde added.

She said while Egypt's economy is growing, the pace of growth could be higher if the economy stabilizes.

Egypt's finance officials will continue talks with the IMF during the Washington meetings. An IMF deal will help to shore up confidence in the economy, unlocking up to $15 billion in much-needed aid and investment.

Egypt secured $5 billion in stopgap financing from Arab allies Qatar and Libya last week. But the IMF deal is critical for restoring confidence and winning investment.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Jason Lange; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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