Paris Club close to deal on Russian debt

Washington - Western creditor countries are close to a final deal on rescheduling Russia's foreign debt, largely borrowings made by the former Soviet Union.

They also accept that Moscow is pushing through the economic reforms it agreed as the price for a $10bn (pounds 6.6bn) loan from the International Monetary Fund last month.

Speaking during the IMF and World Bank spring meetings, which concluded in Washington yesterday, Vladimir Panskov, the Russian finance minister, said he had won support from US Treasury secretary Robert Rubin for a long-term rescheduling of the $45bn owed to the rich nations grouped in the so-called "Paris Club". The Club could give final approval as early as this week.

Remaining obstacles were apparently removed by assurances from Mr Panskov and Sergei Dubinin, president of the Russian central bank, over progress of Russia's implementation of the free market reforms. It had been widely feared President Yeltsin would abandon the politically painful plan ahead of elections this summer.