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Russia to provide poorest countries $500 mln in financial aid

MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia intends to provide $500 million in aid to the world's poorest countries over the next few years, the Russian finance minister said Tuesday.

"Russia's aid within the multilateral and bilateral agreements on the development of poorest countries will increase up to $500 million," Alexei Kudrin said.

The minister also said that the next Cabinet meeting on Thursday will discuss financial aid to Nicaragua as part of the international community's debt relief effort, with Russia planning to write off $5 million.

"Russia will contribute $5 million," Kudrin said. "Next in line will be Liberia, Somalia and other countries."

Earlier Tuesday at an event dedicated to Africa Day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia plans to cancel $500 million debt owed by Africa's poorest countries.

Lavrov said Russia has already written off $11.3 billion in 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 $500 million," he said, pointing to positive trends in trade between Russia and Africa. "Bilateral trade has reached $3.5 billion," the foreign minister said.

Minister Kudrin said that African debt cancellation will be discussed at the 33rd Group of Eight (G8) most industrialized nations summit June 6-8 in Germany.

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