Brown presses IMF to sell gold

GORDON BROWN yesterday pressed the International Monetary Fund to sell $2bn worth of its gold reserves to help pay for its contribution to developing-world debt relief.

Following Friday's announcement that the UK will sell more than half of its gold, the Chancellor said: "This is a hard decision for many governments hitherto opposed to the very idea of gold sales, but it is a decision we must now take as a matter of both necessity and morality." He added: "When the poverty is so immediate, the need so urgent, the suffering so intense, we cannot - we must not - bury the hopes of a quarter of humanity in lifeless vaults of gold."

The Chancellor, speaking as the first government minister since Margaret Thatcher to address the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, also called on the world's richest countries to pledge an additional $1bn to allow the poorest nations to reduce their debts.

The announcement of Britain's sale of gold reserves has been criticised for lowering the price of gold and thus undermining the IMF's ability to raise funds in turn by selling some of its own reserves. The price of gold slipped a further $4 to $278 an ounce in London yesterday.

The UK has so far contributed $71m to a trust fund for third-world debt relief run by the World Bank, one of the few countries to commit funds. The Chancellor urged other Group of Seven countries to help take this total up to the $1bn mark so the World Bank can join the IMF in financing debt relief.

Mr Brown said the burden of unpayable debt should be reduced by at least $50bn in the year 2000. The money released by debt relief should be targeted at poverty reduction, health and education in developing countries.

Wealthy countries should provide a further $60bn in international aid next year. In addition, citizens should "dramatically increase our own giving to the neediest of the world," the Chancellor said.

Addressing the assembly of the church in which his late father was a minister, Mr Brown called the burden of third-world debt "the greatest single cause of injustice and cause of conflict across the earth".

The Chancellor gained warm applause from delegates.Moderator John Cairns said: "Today you have reaffirmed our belief that there is such a thing as society and community, and reminded us that our neighbours are not just in Europe, but throughout the world."

Gold tumbles again, page 21

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