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Russia to cancel $500 mln of African nations' debt

Russia plans to cancel debt owed to Moscow by Africa's poorest countries by $500 million, the foreign minister said Tuesday at an event dedicated to Africa Day.

Sergei Lavrov said Russia has already written off $11.3 billion of African debt, including $2.2 billion through the Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), a debt relief program initiated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in 1996. „We plan to increase this by a further $0.5 billion,” he said, pointing to positive trends in trade between Russia and Africa. „Bilateral trade has reached $3.5 billion,” he said. Lavrov said that the prevention and settlement of military conflicts remained a key condition for putting Africa on the path to sustainable development. He said up to 300 African peacekeepers are trained in Russia annually and stressed his country's efforts to promote the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative. The minister said Russia would continue doing everything possible bilaterally and as part of multilateral programs under the auspices of the UN and other organizations to integrate Africa into the global economy and politics.

Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak said late last year that Russia would write off the debt of seven African countries - Benin, Zambia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ghana - which had completed participation in the HIPC. Russia could also cancel a $350 million debt of another 12 African nations, including Guinea, the Republic of the Congo, Chad and Burundi, Storchak said. African debt cancellation is traditionally discussed at G8 summits. Germany will host the 33rd G8 summit June 6-8. Africa Day marks the Organization of African Unity, which was established May 25, 1963 and renamed the African Union in 2001. There are 53 African nations in the African Union now. (