An International Monetary Fund staff mission is in Ethiopia, a senior finance ministry official said on Thursday, as the nation faces a deadline with major creditor countries to secure a loan from the international lender.

Last month, IMF spokesperson Julie Kozack had said the fund would send a mission to the Horn of Africa nation to discuss its request for a loan programme.

Ethiopia is in talks with IMF to borrow around $3.5 billion under a reform programme, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters in December.

The IMF confirmed the presence of the staff mission in the Ethiopian capital.

"An IMF mission is starting discussions with the government of Ethiopia this week to continue the constructive dialogue held to date on supporting Ethiopia’s economic reform," said a spokesperson for the fund.

In December, the Paris Club of developed creditor nations said Ethiopia's agreement with its bilateral creditors, other than China, to suspend debt payments until 2025 could be voided if the country does not secure an IMF loan by March 31, 2024.

In the same month, Ethiopia became the third African nation to default in as many years after it failed to make a payment on its $1 billion Eurobond. (Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Kim Coghill)