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Russia to write off $700m in poor countries debt in 2006-Kudrin

MOSCOW, June 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will cancel $700 million worth of debt owed by Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), the finance minister said Tuesday.

The HIPC debt initiative was proposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and agreed by governments in 1996 to reduce the external debt of the world's poorest countries, and underwent substantial reform in 1999.

"This year, Russia will join the G8's HIPC initiative, writing off $700 mln debts," Alexei Kudrin said.

The HIPC initiative organizers estimate that the national debt in the 33 countries likely to qualify would be reduced from $90 billion to about $45 billion by the initiative, combined with other debt relief measures.

Kudrin said earlier that Russia intended to write off completely the debts of 16 of the world's poorest countries, adding that this mainly related to African countries, including Benin, Tanzania, Zambia and Guyana.

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