The International Monetary Fund said Thursday that talks between Greece and its international lenders were ongoing despite a halt in their review of the nation's performance under the bailout program.
"To suggest that this is on some sort of slow track... I don't think that's the right way to look at things right now," IMF spokesman Bill Murray said at a news conference in Washington.
In mid-September, the so-called "troika" of international lenders -- the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank -- launched a review of Greece's progress on its reform commitments, but suspended the review on September 29, citing undefined "technical" issues.
The IMF team of experts will return to Athens in "early November" to resume the review, Murray said. His remark suggested slippage in the timetable; two weeks ago the IMF said the team would arrive at the end of October.
Murray said the discussions would focus mainly on the country's financing needs. Under the IMF's rules, lending is prohibited to countries that cannot pay their bills over the next 12 months.
According to the troika's estimates, Greece is facing a financial shortfall of 10.9 billion euros ($15.0 billion) by 2015, including 4.4 billion euros ($6.1 billion) in 2014.
We've been clear (the mission) is going to look at the financing gap for the year ahead," Murray said.
The Greek government last Sunday said the country should prepare for tough negotiations with its creditors on its financial needs and its level of debt.
"Up to June it will be hell. Our lenders will review and judge everything," Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras was quoted as saying to the newspaper To Vima.
Greece is experiencing a sixth year of continuous recession and an unemployment rate of more than 27 percent. A second general strike in less than four months is planned for November 6 to protest harsh government austerity policy.
Facing the looming financing gap and under pressure from the IMF, the Europeans have pledged to provide additional financial support to Greece if the country manages to produce a primary surplus -- a surplus that excludes interest on outstanding debt -- which it has forecast to do next year.
The troika's first bailout of Greece, for 110 billion euros in 2010, failed. That was replaced by a second rescue in 2012 of 130 billion euros plus a private sector debt write-off totaling more than 100 billion euros.
The IMF's four-year, 28 billion euro loan program for Greece ends in 2016. The European bailout is set to end in mid-2014, when the plan is for Greece to return to the markets for its long-term funding.