Lagarde urges Greece to take brave decisions on debt

Christine Lagarde, taking questions for the first time as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called on Greek politicians to stick by the recently approved austerity measures, and to be "inspired by the courageous decisions made by political parties in Ireland and in Portugal" to bring their debt burdens down.

The IMF board meets tomorrow to consider whether to release a new tranche of bailout funds for Greece, and Ms Lagarde parried most questions on the subject until after that meeting.

But asked whether the European Central Bank in particular was overstating the risks of a Greek debt default, she said it "doesn't hurt to be overly concerned". Referring to the credit crisis of 2008, she said: "We have been burnt once. Better to be shy this time."

Ms Lagarde, formerly the finance minister of France, was appointed last week to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.