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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 17:40 GMT
Lebanon set for fresh loan talks
Lebanese fishermen
Lebanon is struggling to control its debts
Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri is to hold talks next week with the International Monetary Fund as part of an attempt to raise $5bn (3.2bn)in fresh loans.

Spokespeople for Mr Hariri said he would travel to Washington for discussions with IMF executive director Horst Koehler on 3 November.

The talks come ahead of a conference of lending institutions and overseas aid donors, due to begin in Paris on 23 November.

Mr Hariri is also expected to meet officials from some of the major donor nations in the run-up to the Paris conference.

Debt swap

Lebanon hopes to convince international lenders to advance it another $5bn to help it restructure and service its existing debt mountain.

"We will use the money to swap short-term debts into long-term debts with noticeably lower interest rates," Mr Hariri said during a meeting with business leaders in Beirut.

Lebanon currently owes a total of $30bn, equivalent to about 180% of its annual economic output.

Hefty interest payments are squeezing the government's finances, and holding back economic growth.

Most of the debt was built up as the country started to rebuild after a 15-year civil war which ended in 1990.

The Lebanese government is also planning to boost its finances by privatising public services.

See also:

16 Oct 02 | Business
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