The International Monetary Fund said on Friday that it would act quickly in response to an appeal by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for an international bailout.
“We are prepared to move expeditiously on this," IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said.
In a nationally televised address earlier in the day, describing his country as a “sinking ship”, Papandreou had said two waves of austerity measures introduced by the government “had failed to convince the markets” that Greece would be able to handle its debt.
“There is the risk of the sacrifices of the Greek people being lost as rates of borrowing continue to rise,” he said.
Strauss-Kahn is expected to meet with Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou in Washington on Saturday as G20 finance ministers assemble there.
Greece expects to receive the first tranche of funds under the EU/IMF aid before May 19.
"We expect to have funds from the mechanism before May 19," Papaconstantinou told reporters.
His ministry said the IMF was calling on the government to get tougher on a widespread culture of tax evasion. Almost a third of the Greek economy operates in the black market.
“Among the immediate priorities is . . . a programme of controls including rigorous penalties and prosecution in large cases of non-compliance," a Finance Ministry statement, citing IMF recommendations, said.