IMF's Christine Lagarde says Argentina faces 'red card'

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde Christine Lagarde gave Argentina three months to produce reliable data

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International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde has warned Argentina it could face sanctions unless it produces reliable growth and inflation data.

Ms Lagarde gave Argentina until 17 December to address the problem.

The IMF head said the fund had given Argentina a "yellow card" but it could face a red.

Private economists say annual inflation in Argentina is at 24%, much higher than the official 10% figure.

"We had to choose between the yellow card and the red card. We chose the yellow card. If no progress has been made, then the red card will be out," she said.

Speaking in Washington, Ms Lagarde said Argentina had been given three months to provide reliable estimates on growth and inflation.

'Free country'

Analysts in Buenos Aires say the IMF has been adopting tougher language towards the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The IMF and Argentina have been at odds over the figures since last year.

Private sector economists say the government has ignored the growing pace of inflation.

Cristina Fernandez in New York, Sep 2012 Cristina Fernandez is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly

Last year, the authorities introduced measures restricting the purchase of US dollars.

Memories among Argentinians of the days of rampant inflation in the 1980s and a devalued national currency are still vivid, correspondents say.

If Argentina fails to meet IMF demands, it could face sanctions, lose voting rights and even be expelled from the organisation.

"Argentina is good in football and it certainly understands what we are talking about," said Ms Lagarde.

Earlier, Ms Fernandez, who is visiting the United States this week, rejected claims that her country was facing economic disaster.

And she sent a defiant message: "The rich countries don't want partners or friends; they just want employees and subordinates."

"And we're not going to be anybody's employees or subordinates. We are a free country, with dignity and national pride."

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