Argentina needs to reach agreement with holders of about $100 billion of defaulted debt as soon as possible and not wait for an International Monetary Fund review of its economy, said John Taylor, the U.S. Treasury's undersecretary for international affairs. ``Even though the review hasn't passed, it is very possible for Argentina to move ahead with some things such as debt restructuring,'' Taylor said in an interview in Santiago, where he is attending a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group. ``It takes time and I hope it doesn't drag on too long.'' Argentine bonds declined for a third day on concerns the IMF's decision to consider letting the country delay payments for the second time in two years will reduce pressure on the government to make concessions to creditors in the debt talks. Roberto Lavagna, Argentina's economy minister, said today the government expects to reach an agreement with bondholders by January after presenting its offer to investors this month, informs Bloomberg. According to Reuters, in a tense meeting marred by violent street protests, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner on Tuesday told the head of the IMF to "not even dream" of Argentina setting aside more money to pay its defaulted debt. The International Monetary Fund is pushing for Argentina to improve its offer to restructure $100 billion in bonds in default since an economic meltdown nearly three years ago. Argentina has insisted the offer on the table is final. Rodrigo Rato, making his first visit to the country as the IMF's managing director, told reporters Argentina should "increase the state's financial capacity next year." Analysts interpreted that as a plea for Argentina to set aside more funds in its 2005 budget for future debt payments. Outside, hundreds of protesters clashed with police and burned tires just yards from where Rato met with Kirchner on his maiden trip to the financially crippled country. Riot police protecting the pink presidential palace fired tear gas at protesters, who ranged from members of radical political groups to militant unemployed workers known as "piqueteros." Dozens of people were arrested for lobbing rocks and sticks and four policemen were injured in some of the worst street violence since Kirchner took power 15 months ago. At least six Argentine protesters were injured and 48 people, including 18 women, were detained in the clash with police over the visit of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Rodrigo Rato, Argentine police said Tuesday. But spokesmen of human rights groups said that the number of detainees was 100, including several minors at the age of 14 to 15. The six injured included one women who was attacked by three rubber bullets on her back and five policemen who were wounded by the stones thrown onto them. The demonstration was launched by a mix of leftists and jobless picketers who demanded the release of their jailed leader and protested against the presence of the IMF chief Rodrigo Rato. Protesters seized the opportunity to voice opposition to the IMF, which many Argentines blame for their country's economic collapse in 2001 and 2002 that sent millions into poverty. The IMF recently admitted to faulty policy toward Argentina leading up to the crisis and the largest sovereign default in history, reports Xinhuanet.
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