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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Africa presses for debt relief
Aids sufferer
African debt is delaying efforts to tackle Aids
South African President Thabo Mbeki has angrily criticised the world's leading industrial nations for not taking debt relief for impoverished African countries seriously enough.

He said he would travel to Japan with the Nigerian and Algerian presidents to put pressure on G8 leaders at their summit in Okinawa in July.

We need to put a little more pressure on people to deal with this matter a little more seriously

President Mbeki

Our correspondent reports that Mr Mbeki appears to be having difficulties breaking into the official agenda at this stage.

President Mbeki's impassioned statement came at the end of the annual World Economic Forum Africa summit in Durban and followed angry calls from many of the hundreds of government and business leaders attending the summit for action on African debt relief.

Mr Mbeki and other African leaders want debt relief of around $100bn across the continent to free up money for the battle against Aids, other major diseases and poverty.

President Mbeki:
President Mbeki: On a mission to Japan

More pressure was needed, he said, to make world leaders take the issue more seriously.

A year ago G8 leaders agreed along with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, to cut tens of billions' of dollars worth of debt held by the world's poorest nations, many of them in Africa.

But a report released at the start of the summit in Durban said the plan was not working - no debt had been forgiven.

Speakers described Africa's debt burden as a matter of life and death.

African woman
Africans need debt relief to fight poverty says Mr Mbeki

Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Harvard University's Centre for International Development, said that after relieving debt, wealthy nations and organisations needed to inject $10bn a year to effectively tackle diseases like Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhoea.

Aids has already claimed the lives of 11 million Africans.

The disease is seen as the biggest threat to security and economic development in Africa.

Nigeria chaos warning

Mr Sachs - a well-known critic of the International Monetary Fund - also warned that Nigeria will slip into chaos if foreign lenders fail to agree on debt reduction for the West African state.

Nigerian politics and society is going to spin out of control

Jeffrey Sachs
Repayments on Nigeria's foreign debt of $29bn are roughly equivalent to its annual economic output - a bill which the most populous African nation simply cannot pay.

The Harvard professor told the BBC that simply postponing debt repayments did not address the situation.

"Nigeria is burdened by a huge, unpayable mountain of debt that has been subjected to postponement for more than a decade.

"What is absolutely critical is to make clear that - assuming good performance - the debt cancellation will follow.

He said that without such a commitment right now, Nigerian politics and society would spin out of control because of Western austerity demands

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