Russia writes off more than $11 bln of African debt

Since 1998 to 2002, Russia wrote off African countries' debts to the tune of $11.2 bln, including $3.4 bln last year, Alexander Saltanov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

According to the official, "relieving African countries' debt burden has become Russia's priority contribution to the continent". He pointed out that Russia also offered extensive trade privileges to African states, which covered over 80% of Russian import from Africa.

Besides, Russia renders significant help in training specialists, including in health care. Annually African states are provided with some 800 Russian government grants. Russian teachers and doctors work in a number of African countries, the deputy minister said.

Russia's contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will make up $20 mln over the period of 2002-2006, the official remarked. Moscow has already transferred $5 mln to its account.

African countries also receive humanitarian aid to alleviate the consequences of natural disasters, Saltanov maintained. In 2002-2003, aid of this kind was offered to Algeria, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Russia made a voluntary contribution to the UN's World Food Programme for Angola to receive prompt food aid of $1 mln. This year alone, Russia has made a voluntary contribution of $2 mln to the budget of the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees to finance humanitarian operations in Africa, the deputy minister underlined.

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