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G8 `crumbs' for world's poorest

THE GROUP of Eight industrial countries are only offering "crumbs of comfort" to the world's poorest countries with their latest initiatives for improved debt relief, a leading campaign group said.

Jubilee 2000, which groups churches and other organisations campaigning for sweeping debt write-offs for highly indebted poor countries, said in a report the new proposals, to be unveiled this month in Cologne, were paltry. "This report reveals that despite flowery speeches and grand gestures, G8 leaders are offering only crumbs of comfort to the world's most indebted nations," said Ann Pettifor, director of Jubilee 2000.

In recent months many of the G8 countries - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US - have been scrambling to offer more generous-sounding debt relief for poor countries.

But Jubilee 2000 says even under the most generous offer, put forward by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, each person in the world's 52 poorest countries would receive debt relief equivalent to pounds 1.84 a year. Mr Brown has called for rich countries to wipe out $50bn of poor countries' debt. Jubilee 2000 says that of the $216bn owed by the world's poorest countries, $100bn is not being serviced, so debt relief of less than $100 bn won't free up new resources for spending on priority areas like health and education.