France asks Paris Club to speed up Haiti debt

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Originally published
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15 Jan 2010 12:02:36 GMT

Source: Reuters

* France contacts Paris Club members on Haiti debt

* France hopes to speed up debt relief agreed last July

(Adds details)

PARIS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - France has contacted the other members of the Paris Club of sovereign creditors to discuss speeding up debt relief for Haiti, Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said on Friday.

The Paris Club creditors reached a deal last July to cancel Haiti's entire debt but each country must then work out a bilateral agreement to put the accord in place.

"I have been in contact with all the members of the Paris Club so that we accelerate the cancellation of the debt of the state of Haiti vis-a-vis the members of the Paris Club," she told reporters.

The Haitian Red Cross said it believed 45,000 to 50,000 people had died and 3 million more -- one third of Haiti's population -- were hurt or left homeless by the 7.0 magnitude quake that hit its impoverished capital on Tuesday.

France chairs the Paris Club and its staff are based in the French economy ministry.

The Paris Club said in July it had decided to cancel $62.73 million of the country's debt. They also committed on a bilateral and voluntary basis to cancel an additional $152 million.

Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain and the United States participated in the talks.

Lagarde said Haiti's debt to France was 58 million euros ($84 million).

Four million of this had been completely cancelled and France was accelerating the process of cancelling charges on the remaining 54 million, she said.

Lagarde said she was asking Taiwan and Venezuela, who are also major creditors of Haiti but not part of the Paris Club, to help in the debt relief effort.

"I am asking two other states, Taiwan and Venezuela ... to also envisage the cancellation of their debt to Haiti ... as a collective effort, this would be a good step for this country," Lagarde said.

Haiti received $1.2 billion debt relief from the IMF and World Bank last June. (Reporting by Anna Willard and Tamora Vidaillet; Editing by Myra NacDonald)

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