Tsunami-hit nations offered debt relief

The Paris Club of creditor nations has unconditionally frozen debt repayments for countries worst hit by the tsunami disaster.

    Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Seychelles will get debts frozen

    The debt freeze announced on Wednesday by the 19-member informal cluster of some of the world's richest creditor nations aims to benefit Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Seychelles.

    "It is an offer by the Paris Club that has not yet been formally accepted by the countries concerned: Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Seychelles," club president Jean-Pierre Joyuet said.

    India, Malaysia and Thailand, however, did not request a freeze on their debt payments.

    "In this exceptional situation, creditors wished that the suspension not be submitted to any conditions, neither an accord with the International Monetary Fund, nor to comparable treatment by private creditors," he said.

    Indonesian deadline

    The debt freeze came as Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said foreign troops should leave tsunami-hit Aceh province on Sumatra island as soon as they finish their relief mission, staying no longer than three months.

    Several foreign countries have
    rushed troops to Aceh to help

    "Three months are enough. In fact, the sooner the better," Kalla said.

    The armed forces of Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States have all rushed task forces to Aceh in the wake of the disaster which killed at least 106,500 Indonesians out of a total of more than 159,000 deaths in Asia.

    Though international help has been welcomed, the presence of foreign troops on Indonesian soil has been a tricky issue for a country which has traditionally kept foreign military, particularly the US and Australia, at arm's length.

    The vice-president said Aceh in the near future would need foreign medical workers and engineers instead of military assistance.

    "Foreign troops are no longer needed," he said.

    New restrictions

    His comments came after the Indonesian military imposed sweeping new restrictions on foreign relief workers operating in Aceh.

    "Foreign troops are no longer needed"

    Jusuf Kalla,
    Indonesian vice-president

    Analysts say the restrictions are an attempt to reassert the military's control over the troubled province that has been witness to a long-running separatist movement.

    Under the restrictions imposed, foreign journalists are confined to only major towns.

    Indonesian troops have already begun accompanying United Nations missions to help victims of the tsunami, despite assurances from the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) not to harm relief volunteers.

    Meanwhile, the director-general of the UN educational, scientific and cultural agency (UNESCO) Koichiro Matsuura, said a $30 million tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean should be up and running next year and a gl

    obal warning system ready by 2007.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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