The IMF and Argentina are talking about sending an IMF technical mission to the country to improve the quality of the government's economic data, a senior IMF official said on Saturday.

Such a mission would be a small, but significant step for reestablishing ties between the IMF and Argentina, whose relations have been strained since the country's $100 billion debt default and currency crisis in 2001.

Argentina has refused an IMF review of its economy for the past several years and on Saturday it said it was better off free from the shackles of the IMF, whose loan programs generally come with fiscal conditions attached.

But the IMF also conducts ordinary Article IV consultations with each of its 186 member countries as part of the Fund's monitoring of the global economy. A positive review could help Argentina's efforts to return to global credit markets as it tries to restructure its debt.

INDEC, the official statistics bureau, has been widely seen as underreporting inflation and poverty, and overreporting growth and employment. The government is trying to restore credibility of its data as it begins to court markets again.

We have been talking about the possibility (of) a technical assistance mission, predominantly because INDEC has the intention to widen the coverage of CPI, Nicolas Eyzaguirre, the IMF's Western Hemisphere director, told reporters on the sidelines meetings of global finance chiefs.

Eyzaguirre said as a member of the Group of 20, which includes major developed and developing countries, it would be very good for Argentina and for the world community to reestablish the Article IV consultation.

Referring to the IMF review, Eyzaguirre said Argentina's Economy Minister Amadou Boudou was open to that.

He has not denied that avenue as a possible one, said Eyzaguirre, a former Chile finance minister.

But Argentina's own statement to the IMF earlier, was scathing about the Fund and its advice, which it blames for the 2001 default. [nN24145179]

If we had followed the recommendations traditionally made by (the IMF) -- which have favored opening our economies, foreign indebtedness, financial liberalization and 'unbeatable' market-oriented reforms -- the outcome would have been totally different and today we would have been embroiled in a fresh economic, social and political crisis, the statement said. Therefore, we celebrate today our well-gained economic independence.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; editing by Patrick Graham)