Greece emptied an IMF holding account to repay €750m due to the fund, a Greek central bank official said, avoiding default but underscoring the dire state of the country's finances.
With Athens close to running out of cash and a deal with international creditors still elusive, there had been doubts about whether the country would pay the IMF or opt to save cash to pay salaries and pensions.
Greece, like all other International Monetary Fund members, holds reserves from the IMF that are denominated in Special Drawing Rights, a basket of international currencies.
The reserves must be kept at a certain level or the country must pay interest if its holdings fall below its "allocation" of SDRs from the IMF.
A government official told Reuters that Athens used about €650m from the SDR holdings account and €100m from its cash reserves to make the payment yesterday.
The Greek central bank official confirmed the account had been tapped after government officials met the central bank chief last week to figure out how to make the payment.
"The negative is that the account was emptied but in order to avert a default it was necessary to weigh the options," the Bank of Greece official said.
As of the end of March, Greece had about 554 million SDRs, equivalent to €695m, according to IMF data.
The Greek official said the account was usually only tapped in emergencies, though IMF data shows countries often draw on these reserves. The last time Greece made a significant withdrawal from its SDR holdings was in November 2011.
Made a day early, the IMF payment calmed immediate fears of a Greek default, but Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said yesterday the liquidity situation was "terribly urgent" and a deal to release further funds was needed in the next couple of weeks.
The IMF today confirmed Athens had made its payment to the fund but declined to give details about how it was made.
"Regarding aspects of the payment that some of you have asked confirmation about, we don't publish information on the details of members' transactions with the Fund," an IMF spokeswoman said in response to questions about how Greece made the payment.
Central bank chief Yannis Stournaras met deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis and deputy foreign minister Euclid Tsakalotos, a top negotiator in talks with lenders, on two occasions last week on how to meet the May IMF repayment, the central bank official said.
"The central bank governor put forth the idea to tap the €650m in the holding account, which needed IMF approval," the official said, declining to be named.
"Governor Stournaras made the arrangement with the IMF and on Saturday we got their okay and the account was unlocked."
Greece's IMF holding account - which is held at the Bank of Greece - has been in existence for 30 years for emergency needs, the official said.
A second Greek official said on Tuesday that the reserves the government tapped must be replenished in the IMF account in "several weeks."
Following legislative changes, Greece has meanwhile gathered €600m of local government and other public entity money to help it deal with the cash crunch, the government's spokesman said.
Euro zone finance ministers said yesterday that more work was needed to reach a cash-for-reform deal between Athens and the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
Created in 1945, the IMF is accountable to the 188 countries that make up its near-global membership. Each member is assigned a quota, based on its relative size in the world economy, which determines its contribution to the fund's financial resources.
Key dates in Greece's funding talks with euro zone
Greece is running out of cash but despite months of talks has yet to reach a deal on a package of reforms with its creditors that would help unlock more financial aid.
Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said last week that Athens is sticking to non-negotiable "red lines" on labour and pension issues and that he expects the EU and International Monetary Fund to make concessions as well.
To clinch a deal, Greece must agree on a comprehensive list of reforms with representatives of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
That can then be presented to euro zone deputy finance ministers and, with their approval, to the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers
Key dates for Greece in the negotiations:
May 12 - Greece has to pay back around €750m of principal to the IMF.
May 15 - Greece has to roll over €1.4 billion worth of maturing three-month Treasury bills.
May 20 - Non-monetary policy meeting of the ECB Governing Council.
End of May - Greece has to pay about €2.5 billion in salaries and pensions.
June 3 - ECB Governing Council monetary policy meeting.
June 17 - Non-monetary policy meeting of the ECB Governing Council.
June 18 - Meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Luxembourg.
June 25/26 - European Union leaders hold summit in Brussels.
June 30 - Expiry of extended bailout agreement between the euro zone and Greece, which means the end of access to the funds left over from the euro zone bailout.
From then on, to get any money from the euro zone, Greece would have to negotiate a new bailout agreement from scratch.