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IMF

Paris IMF parcel bomb ‘clearly’ sent by far-left Greek militants

Greek authorities on Friday were trying to determine how a near-defunct militant group was able to sneak at least two parcel bombs through airport security, one of which exploded at the IMF offices in Paris.

Paris IMF parcel bomb 'clearly' sent by far-left Greek militants
Members of the Police Forensic team leave the Paris offices of the IMF on March 16th 2017 in Paris, after a letter bomb exploded in the premises. Photo: AFP

The investigation so far suggests that the booby-trapped mail sent to the IMF and the German finance ministry — presumably by a far-left group called the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei — failed to raise an alarm because it contained only a small amount of gunpowder.

“The analysis so far… is that it was a small amount of gunpowder of the same type used in firecrackers… there was no detonator,” Greek police minister Nikos Toskas told Skai TV on Friday, citing evidence from investigators in France and Germany.

“Clearly they are from the same source, the same organisation… the leftovers of the Nuclei”, which was dismantled by the police in 2011, he added.

A small quantity of gunpowder is “hard to trace”, a spokesman for the airport's security company told the To Vima news website.

A source close to the investigation in Paris said the device consisted of two tubes of black powder and a makeshift electric trigger.

It was not immediately clear if the device sent to the IMF offices was in an envelope or a small parcel.

Toskas defended the screening procedures at the Athens airport, saying the equipment was recently purchased from Germany and was “the best in Europe”.

“The main screening is done before the plane is loaded, and this is where our investigation is focused,” he said, adding that there was “no sign” that additional parcels were sent.

The Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei is “likely behind” the Paris attack, a Greek police source told AFP, adding that French investigators had told their Greek counterparts that the letter was sent from Athens.

Separately, a source close to the French inquiry said it was focusing on “an anarchist group”.

Fragments of Greek stamps were found at the IMF offices where the mail bomb exploded, injuring a secretary's face and hands.

Citing police sources, the Greek daily Avgi said the intended recipient was the IMF's Europe director, Jeffrey Franks.

In a further twist, the names of two senior officials in Greece's conservative New Democracy party were used as the alleged senders — deputy leader Adonis Georgiadis and party spokesman Vassilis Kikilias, formerly a police minister himself.

Toskas acknowledged that the incidents would require a “re-evaluation” of procedures in Greece and abroad.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde denounced a “cowardly act of violence” and said the fund would continue its work “in line with our mandate,” a statement from her office said.

History of violence

The Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei has claimed responsibility for the explosive device, also sent from Greece, that was discovered by the police at the offices of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

The package was discovered on Wednesday, a day before Schäuble was due to host his new US counterpart, Steven Mnuchin.

The group has not commented on the IMF parcel.

Many Greeks blame Germany and the IMF for imposing years of public-sector cuts and policy overhauls in exchange for bailout packages needed to prop up the debt-ridden country.

The group, which is considered a terror organisation by Washington, sent mail bombs to foreign embassies in Greece and to European leaders in 2010.

The organisation denounces capitalism and consumerism, as well as police repression and worker exploitation.

Police say the name “Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei” had been used as a cover by urban militants carrying out minor arson attacks against car dealerships and police vehicles since the middle of the last decade. But their activities escalated starting in early 2008.

In 2011, several of its members, many of them very young, were convicted of “participating in a criminal organisation” and given long prison sentences.

But three years later the group announced its return and has been committing sporadic attacks since then.

ECONOMY

Make reforms while sun shines on world economy: Lagarde

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has urged France and other countries to push through reforms "while the sun is shining" on the global economy.

Make reforms while sun shines on world economy: Lagarde
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde. Photo: AFP

In an interview with France's Le Journal du Dimanche published on Sunday Lagarde said the strength of the global economic recovery had taken the IMF by surprise.

“In 2017, for the first time in a long time, we revised our growth forecasts upwards whereas previously we used to lower them,” she said.

Global growth of 3.6 percent was both “stronger and more widely shared” in 2017, she said, noting that developed economies were now growing again under their own steam and no longer merely being pulled along by demand in emerging markets.

Lagarde said the favourable climate lent itself to implementing reforms.

“When the sun is shining you should take advantage to fix the roof,” she said, using one of her favourite maxims.

This year's global growth is on a par with the average of the two decades leading up to the global financial crisis of 2007-2008.

The IMF has forecast a further slight improvement in 2018, to 3.7 percent.

In Lagarde's native France, seen for years as one of Europe's weak links, the recovery kicked in in earnest this year.

From 1.1 percent in 2016, growth is expected to rise to 1.9 percent in 2017 — still short of the 2.4 percent forecast for the eurozone as a whole but better than the 1.6 percent initially forecast in the eurozone's second-largest economy.

Centrist President Emmanuel Macron aims to consolidate the momentum and bring down stubbornly high unemployment with an ambitious programme of labour, tax and welfare reforms.

Lagarde said the changes were key to boosting France's credibility at a time when Macron is pushing for reforms at the European level, including closer integration among eurozone members.

The managing director of the IMF was France's finance minister in 2008, when the euro looked to be in serious jeopardy.

Nearly 10 years later, the currency is out of the woods.

But, Lagarde warned, “the mission has not been accomplished — and maybe never will — because Europe is not united on moving towards greater integration while maintaining national sovereignty.”