Iceland Says Loan Apolitical

APAsgeirsson
Russia's offer of a 4 billion euro ($5.5 billion) loan to Iceland, one of the countries hardest hit by the financial crisis, has been called by some a bid to expand Moscow's geopolitical influence.

But Benedikt Asgeirsson, Iceland's ambassador to Russia, said Friday that he saw no ulterior motive in Russia's offer of the money, which is the equivalent of more than a quarter of Iceland's annual gross domestic product.

"We see this mainly as a financial issue," he said. "And I'm not aware that there are any strings attached."

He said the offer could be seen as a reflection of Moscow's confidence in Iceland's economy and as part of Russia's contribution to efforts to end the crisis.

Iceland Central Bank officials were headed to Moscow on Monday for three days of talks on the loan, which he said was first discussed this summer.

n Iceland signaled on Sunday that it was growing increasingly open to the idea of seeking International Monetary Fund help to pull the country through its worst economic crisis.

"My conclusion is that if we appeal to the IMF, other central banks and other nations would follow that track," Industry Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson told the Morgunbladid newspaper in a report on its web site Sunday.

AP, Reuters