Argentina and its key bank creditors are near an agreement on a $4 billion to $4.5 billion loan of new funds as well as refinancing of about $10 billion in existing loans, sources in New York said yesterday.

The talks have been going slowly, but negotiators believe they can reach an agreement sometime this weekend, the sources said.

An agreement with the banks is crucial to reaching final agreement on a loan from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF and Argentina reached a preliminary agreement in September on a $1.4 billion, 15-month loan and settled on a set of economic measures designed to bring down Argentina's raging inflation rate and reduce its need to borrow from abroad.

The banks required Argentina to agree to an economic program with the IMF before they would negotiate loan terms, and the IMF said the banks and Argentina had to negotiate a new debt package before it would give final approval.

Argentine officials asked the bank for a $5.45 billion loan of new money, but sources said the final figure probably will be between $4 billion and $4.5 billion.

The negotiators also differed on the level of interest charges and the length of time Argentina would have to pay back both the existing loans and the new one. The country, with about $45 billion in foreign debt, is more than $1 billion in arrears on interest payments to banks.