FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Hassan Diab meets with French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher, in Beirut, Lebanon January 23, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS

BEIRUT (Reuters) – France’s ambassador urged Lebanon to make rapid progress in talks with the IMF, local media said on Monday, as the country seeks help to escape a dire financial crisis.

Lebanon’s government hopes it can get a $10 billion (£8.23 billion) aid deal from the remote negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, which began last week and resumed on Monday afternoon.

Beirut officially asked for IMF assistance this month in what Prime Minister Hassan Diab called a “historic moment” for the country facing the biggest threat to its stability since its 1975-90 civil war.

The talks will be based on a government rescue plan that maps out vast losses in the financial system and steps to claw out of a crisis that has crashed the local currency and pushed Lebanon to declare default.

“The priority is progressing in negotiations with the Fund quickly,” local broadcaster LBC quoted French Ambassador Bruno Foucher as saying on Monday. “The coming weeks will be important to continue discussions of the plan and financial matters.”

The comments came during a meeting between Diab and ambassadors of several countries that had pledged about $11 billion at a Paris conference in 2018.

Beirut hopes that with an IMF programme in hand, foreign donors will unlock the money, which was conditional on long-stalled reforms and which never came.

Foucher was quoted as saying the meeting was “a chance to convince participants”.

Donors that helped Lebanon in the past say they will not give any fresh aid before the state makes changes to tackle corruption and waste – root causes of Lebanon’s economic problems.

Reporting by Ellen Francis

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