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Breakthrough On Debt Relief Hailed

Washington, D.C., 26 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- All 184 member countries of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have agreed debt relief for the world's poorest countries.

The agreement came during the autumn meetings on 25 and 26 September of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington.

The plan will cancel an estimated $40 billion of debt carried by 18 poor countries, most of them in Africa. About 70 percent of the debt is owed to the World Bank, and the rest owed to the IMF and African Development Bank.

Speaking at press conference, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz acknowledged that public pressure had led to the loan-cancellation agreement.

"From concert stadiums to high-profile summits, people from rich and poor countries alike have been moved by the suffering we see in so many parts of our world," Wolfowitz said. "They have demanded action, and with this debt-relief agreement, they have it."

Officials say they hope the debt relief will enable poor countries to increase spending to fight poverty, improve education, and buy drugs for HIV/AIDS or malaria treatment.

Another 20 countries could become eligible for debt relief if they meet a number of conditions.

The Group of Eight (G-8) leading industrialized countries backed a framework for the debt relief at a summit in July.


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