BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Romania's government and the International Monetary Fund reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday for a $500 million loan to ease the country's steep economic decline.

Romania desperately needs the money because it has $2.8 billion in foreign debt to repay this year.

With the loan, the government hopes to reduce imports and cut inflation, Prime Minister Radu Vasile said.

The national currency, the leu, has depreciated about 27 percent this year. The average national monthly salary is $81.

Trade unions are threatening a general strike next Monday to protest falling living standards.

The board of the IMF will consider the agreement in June, said Emanuel Zervoudakis, the bank's chief negotiator for Romania. If approved, the loan will be released in quarterly installments over 11 months.