Chirac debt offer to hurricane victims

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The Independent Online
FRANCE RENEWED its drive for debt relief for Central American countries worst hit by Hurricane Mitch by extending its offer yesterday to write off bilateral debt owed by Nicaragua and Honduras to include Guatemala and El Salvador.

The French President, Jacques Chirac, announced the offer in Guatemala City. The total write-off covered $132m (pounds 82m). Mr Chirac, on a tour of Central America, also called on all countries in the Paris Club of creditor nations to follow France's example.

He suggested creation of a Central American reconstruction fund, to be overseen by the World Bank.

Hillary Clinton, on arrival in Honduras, called Mitch "the worst natural disaster in this hemisphere that we have record of". At the weekend President Bill Clinton announced $45m more aid for the region, bringing the total US commitment to $126m. In Washington the IMF, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank said they may offer debt relief to Honduras and Nicaragua.