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IMF approves $1.25 bln disbursement to Ireland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Friday approved a $1.25 billion disbursement to Ireland under an existing loan program to aid the European island nation.

The latest release of funds brings total aid to about $26 billion, the international lender said, but officials have said that they expect Ireland to get off emergency funding later this year.

Ireland has been one of the success stories in the euro-zone debt crisis, with European and IMF leaders eager to congratulate the country for the fiscal discipline that has helped it get back on its feet.

"Ireland's strong policy implementation has continued and positive signs are emerging. Real GDP growth was 0.9 percent in 2012, and employment rose slightly over the year," the IMF said in a statement.

Ireland was one of the best-performing economies in the euro zone last year. Last week, Ireland managed to attract investors to fresh debt offerings, another sign that the nation could soon stand on its own.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; and Patrick Rucker; Editing by Jan Paschal)