Third World is given vague pledge on debt

Group of Seven summit: Leaders agree to work on increasing relief for poorest countries but skate over detail

The leaders of the world's richest nations agreed yesterday to work for an increase in debt relief for the poorest countries and to tighten world trade regulations to discourage unilateral action by individual countries.

But the two decisions, contained in the economic communique presented by President Jacques Chirac of France on behalf of the Group of Seven industrialised countries meeting at their annual summit in Lyon, were couched in general terms and skated over important points of disagreement.

The prominent place given to development aid and debt in the communique satisfied the desire of the host country, France, and Japan to focus attention on help for the least developed countries. Britain and the US were also satisfied by the emphasis on assistance linked to the development of free market economies and encouragement for private enterprise and the exercise of financial discipline, which accompanied every mention of aid.

The G7 also set out a series of proposals for reforming and rationalising UN organisations connected with foreign aid, including the appointment of a single under secretary-general to handle development. The move seemed intended to sideline a dispute between the US and European countries about whether the current UN secretary-general, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, should serve a second term.

A key point of discord in preparation for the summit, however, the question of whether the IMF should sell a small part of its gold reserves to fund additional debt relief, was referred to only obliquely - and immediately interpreted differently by several of the participants. The communique said only that "If needed, the IMF should consider optimising its reserves management" to help finance the debt relief programme.

A later paragraph said that the G7 welcomed the World Bank undertaking to commit $500m to increasing debt relief and would support and work together for an overall World Bank contribution of the order of $2bn.

The American treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, interpreted this as meaning that $2bn worth of gold reserves would be sold. The British Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, also indicated that gold sales were likely. Germany - whose finance minister, Theo Waigel, failed to turn up for yesterday's meetings because his plane broke down - had stood out against any gold sales, and reportedly brought Italy and Japan over to its side. Britain and France had proposed a compromise solution under which the proceeds of the gold sales would be invested to ensure they retained their value.

Compromise was also the order of the day on the other big controversy that has dogged the economic half of the summit: the new US Helms-Burton law that punishes companies and individuals for trading with Cuba. The fact that the law applies not just to US concerns but foreign ones as well has prompted fierce condemnation and charges of extra-territorial interference from European and Canada.

Yesterday's communique pleased Washington by avoiding any specific mention either of the US or Helms-Burton, but issued what the EU officials described as a firm reprimand to the US.

Separately, Russia's long-standing hopes of joining the Group of Seven receded yesterday when President Chirac said the G7 was essentially an economic grouping "which is used to working together" and Russia's economy did not meet the requirements for membership. Mr Chirac was speaking soon after the arrival of the Russian prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, to take part in the second part of the summit, which is devoted to political issues, including Bosnia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee