Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar urged Argentina in an interview published on Sunday to adopt measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund as conditions for economic aid. “The most important thing now in Argentina is that its government adopt the measures that the IMF has put on the table. That is the real responsibility of the Argentine government,” Aznar told the Spanish newspaper La Razon. Banks including Santander Central Hispano and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and many other Spanish companies have seen their profits hit by heavy investment exposure to Argentina, whose financial crisis has forced a radical devaluation of its currency. “The presence of foreign investment is a sign of extraordinary international confidence and Argentina must not lose that,” Aznar said. “We have told our companies that their presence in Argentina is a strategic Spanish bet, but we can't force any company to remain anywhere.” Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde travels to Madrid later this week for a Latin American-European Union summit. Aznar, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said he had held long talks about Argentina with U.S. President George W. Bush, whom he met recently, and later with Duhalde. Aznar said he had urged Duhalde to implement the measures sought by the IMF as soon as possible “because it's a question of recovering credibility”. “I told the Argentine president...that the ball is in his court. He must play it,” he said. Squabbling in Argentina's Congress last week delayed approval of two measures sought by the IMF -- changes to a bankruptcy law and abolition of a controversial “economic subversion” law. Duhalde, who has been in office only four months, since two predecessors quit amid riots sparked by a recession, has sought speedy approval of a package of measures including steep spending cuts to win billions of dollars in international aid. In a separate interview with La Razon, Duhalde said IMF's demands were very harsh. “People demand things of countries that are in these (Argentina's) conditions that they wouldn't demand of other countries,” he said. Asked if the IMF had any responsibility for the Argentine crisis, Duhalde did not accuse the fund directly but said: “Eighty percent of the responsibility is Argentine and 20 percent (lies with) backing policies that were not economically sustainable with generous loans ...” He said Argentina needed Europe to buy its products, adding that Argentina could pay countries holding Argentine debt “with the best meat in the world”.


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