IMF chief backs Spain's two-year deficit delay

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde voiced robust support Friday for Spain's announcement that it needs two more years to meet the EU deficit target.

"I strongly support the Spanish government's objectives of restoring a sound fiscal position while securing a recovery and creating jobs," Lagarde said in a statement.

"Today's announcement to pursue a more gradual consolidation path is a welcome step toward meeting these goals, building on major reforms and structural fiscal improvements last year," she said.

The European Commission, the executive of the European Union, earlier in the day approved the Spanish government's announcement it would take until 2016 to reduce its public deficit to below the eurozone limit of three percent of gross domestic product.

In an about-face from calls for greater austerity to fight the debt and banking crises in the eurozone, Lagarde and other IMF officials in recent months have been urging authorities to focus on stimulus measures to offset weak growth.