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IMF meets with Argentina's Treasury minister and central bank president

FILE PHOTO: A man shows Argentine pesos outside a bank in Buenos Aires' financial district

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Top Argentine finance officials met with a team from the International Monetary Fund on Saturday, the Treasury Ministry said, while tens of thousands of supporters of President Mauricio Macri gathered just outside the presidential palace, waving national flags and cheering.

The IMF officials met with Treasury Minister Hernan Lacunza, who was just installed in that position on Tuesday, and central bank President Guido Sandleris, according to the Treasury Ministry statement.

No details were released on the talks. The IMF team on Friday said it planned to "exchange views" over the weekend with the economic advisers to Argentina's top presidential contenders in the October election, the incumbent Macri and opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez.

Macri was trounced in the primary election on Aug. 11 by Fernandez, who is now the front runner for the October presidential election. Center-left Peronist Fernandez has criticized the $57 billion standby agreement Macri struck with the IMF in 2018, pledging to "rework" the deal if elected.

Fernandez's landslide support in the primary vote prompted the peso currency to fall by nearly 18% last week amid fears of a return to the interventionist economic policies of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is Fernandez's vice presidential candidate.

Macri appeared only briefly on Saturday afternoon, saluting fans in Buenos Aires´ historic Plaza de Mayo, and joining in chants of "Yes, we can," his now-familiar campaign slogan. Supporters launched similar gatherings in large cities throughout Argentina.

Macri took office in 2015 promising to bring an end to the cyclical crises that over the last 100 years turned one of the world’s strongest economies into a serial defaulter. But an economic recovery has failed to materialize.

Voters fed up with Macri's IMF-backed austerity measures and crippling inflation of 55% overwhelming snubbed Macri in the primary election, giving a 15-point lead to Fernandez, who promised on Thursday that Argentina has "no possibility" of default if he is elected.

The International Monetary Fund's next scheduled review of Argentina's lending program is on Sept. 15.


(Reporting by Jorge Otaola and Cassandra Garrison, writing by Dave Sherwood)