US pledges to cancel debts for some poor nations

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AMERICA UNDERLINED its commitment to debt relief yesterday by pledging to forgive 100 per cent of the debts of some poor nations.

"Today I am directing my administration to make it possible to forgive 100 per cent of the debt these countries owe to the United States, when needed to help them finance basic needs and when the money will be used to do so," President Bill Clinton told the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, calling it "an economic and moral imperative".

"Simply put, unsustainable debt is helping to keep too many poor countries and poor people in poverty," the President said.

Following some early scepticism about debt relief, America seems to have been converted to the cause. It was the first such commitment from any country. The money for the pledge would come from cash already announced, the US said.

"Unsustainable debt is helping keep too many poor countries and poor people in poverty," Mr Clinton said. "I do not think we can say in good conscience that we support the idea that they should choose between making interest payments and investing in their children's education."

The pledge was welcomed by debt campaigners. Until now, the US had said that it would forgive 90 per cent, in common with other developed countries.

"I hope we will start the new millennium with a new resolve, to give every person in the world, through trade and technology, through investments in education and health care, the chance to be part of a widely shared prosperity in which all the people's potential can be developed more fully," Mr Clinton said.