WASHINGTON - The International Monetary Fund has started negotiations with Tunisia on a loan program, while Egypt has expressed readiness to move forward on its funding talks, a senior IMF official said on Friday.

Masood Ahmed, IMF director for the Middle East and North Africa, told reporters he hoped to report progress in the talks with Tunisia by early February. Tunisia said late last year it was seeking a $2.5 billion loan from the IMF, but Ahmed said the talks were currently establishing the amount.

Meanwhile, he said Egypt was eager to move forward with its IMF loan deal and a technical team was currently in Cairo reviewing whether the authorities' economic measures were enough to deal with the country's financial challenges.

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