US drops Liberia debt

US secretary of state urges other bodies and countries to aid Liberia after pledge.

    Rice, left,  pledged to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, centre, that Liberia's debt would be dropped [AFP]

    Rice also announced that George Bush, the US president, had asked the US congress to provide more than $200 million in additional aid for Liberia in the fiscal year starting in October.


    "The United States is determined to continue and to expand our support in Liberia," said Rice, who attended the inauguration over a year ago of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia’s president.




    Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, said Liberia's debt was an unacceptable burden for a country of only 3 million people and appealed to donors to cancel the debt.


    "Much more remains to be done and the clock is ticking," Wolfowitz told representatives from donor countries including Norway, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Netherlands and Spain.


    "Much more remains to be done and the clock is ticking"

    Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank

    Johnson-Sirleaf has travelled the world seeking commitments by governments to clear Liberia's arrears to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank.


    Liberia's debt to the World Bank alone stands at $800m.


    Without an agreement on the arrears, Liberia will be unable to access new lending and qualify for broader debt relief, including protection under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) framework.


    Johnson-Sirleaf said debt relief was critical for her nation, warning that the danger of a return to war was always high in post-conflict countries and a peace dividend was needed.


    "Please tell your finance ministers to speed up the process," she said, listing her government's political and economic achievements praised by the IMF and World Bank.


    Rice praised Johnson-Sirleaf's administration for its work in rooting out corruption and trying to rebuild the country.


    "We are putting our full support behind Liberia's government," she said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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