Blaine Harden's piece on Zambia {front page, June 29} makes a number of sound points, but goes off-track in holding the International Monetary Fund responsible for unrealistic conditions on loans, specifically by expecting adjustment to take place in too short a time frame.

In fact, the IMF's support for Zambia's adjustment efforts stretches back over more than a decade; if in the more recent period, the degree of the required adjustment effort has become greater, it is because the decline in Zambia's copper earnings, intermittent domestic policy slippages and the growing burden of debt servicing have steadily reduced domestic incomes and the net availability of foreign exchange. Zambia has had to adjust to this reality.

Obviously, the more financial support the country can muster, the less painful would be its adjustment process. The IMF responds to requests from members by providing resources on a revolving basis, and it helps with policy advice and technical assistance to set them on the path to growth.

IMF credit to Zambia has risen almost continuously since 1975 to reach a peak of $962 million in 1986. Of this amount, $430 million was provided either as highly concessional trust fund loans or under an extended arrangement that enables repayment to stretch up to 10 years, starting four years from disbursement. The rest of these loans are repayable in three to five years, not three years, as the article states.

As these loans have matured, the IMF has sought to cushion the magnitude of repayments through a new stand-by arrangement, along with disbursements under the Compensatory Financing Facility, which is designed to help countries meet temporary shortfalls in their export earnings. The package of adjustment measures introduced by the authorities with IMF support also attracted additional donor assistance and substantial debt rescheduling by bilateral creditors. It is unfortunately the case that Zambia has not been able to adhere to that program.

Zambia's economic situation is both difficult and complex, and it is very much the IMF's wish, as conveyed by the IMF's managing director to President Kaunda, to "continue friendly and cooperative relations with Zambia." In this spirit, the managing director has reiterated that the IMF "stands ready to renew discussions at any time that might be convenient" to the government of Zambia.

The IMF recognizes the dire circumstances facing some of the poorest nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. It is precisely for that reason that the managing director made a proposal for a substantial enlargement in the IMF's most concessional facility, the Structural Adjustment Facility, a proposal that was endorsed by the Group of Seven at their recent Venice economic summit.

The implementation of this proposal, together with parallel World Bank lending operations, bilateral donor assistance and debt rescheduling within the framework of the Paris Club on much softer terms, would be the answer for low-income countries willing to undertake the economic reforms needed to restore growth.

On a factual point: the remarks attributed to the IMF's director of the African Department were not made by him; there is possibly a confusion here with the executive director of the IMF, who represents Zambia on the IMF's executive board.

AZIZALI F. MOHAMMED Director, External Relations Department International Monetary Fund Washington