Chirac pledges backing for Nigeria debt relief

26th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 26 (AFP) - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was assured Thursday that France would back "generous treatment" from his country's creditors in the way of debt relief, a French presidential spokesman said.

PARIS, May 26 (AFP) - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was assured Thursday that France would back "generous treatment" from his country's creditors in the way of debt relief, a French presidential spokesman said.  

Speaking after talks between Obasanjo and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac, Jerome Bonnafont said the latter had "recalled that France has always had a generous policy with regard to the debt of developing countries, and that in the case of Nigeria we are mindful of the quality of its economic and social development."  

France "is pleading for generous treatment of Nigeria's debt within the Club of Paris" of 19 creditor nations, he added.  

However Bonnafont said that during the talks and a lunch hosted by Chirac no figures were put forward on the extent of relief of the USD 35 billion (EUR 28 billion) debt, and Obasanjo refused to give details.  

Earlier, at a meeting with French business chiefs, Obasanjo said he had received "understanding" from France, Nigeria's second largest creditor with up to six billion dollars owed.  

He insisted that Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer, was "not a rich country," saying revenue from petroleum and gas amounted to only 50 US cents per inhabitant per day.   "France, as our traditional ally and partner, should grant debt remission to Nigeria," he said. "Here, France can show traditional leadership and courage to reward a government that is reforming, a government that in large measure secures west Africa, and a government that has shown courage in fighting corruption."  

"We have made visible progress in tackling corruption and corrupted practices," Obasanjo said. "We have made business in Nigeria more secure, more predictable and more profitable."  

And he hit out at French electronics firm Sagem, accusing it of corruption in a deal to produce 60 million identity cards for Nigeria.  

Obasanjo took to task Jean-Paul Bechat, head of Safran, the company which was formed from a merger between Sagem and aero-engine builder Snecma, saying two unidentified Sagem officials had paid bribes to obtain the contract.  

"Sagem didn't need to bribe anybody but unfortunately, you bribed," he said.   "If we are fighting corruption, you have to help us. It takes two to dance the tango. If there is no giver, there is no receiver."  

Obasanjo said he had asked the French authorities to take legal action against the Sagem officials.  

Bechat replied, "Some accusations have been made (...) no proof has been found. The topic is still fully open."  

Asked by AFP about the possibility of 90 percent debt relief from France, Obasanjo said, "If it is that, I'll go home laughing."

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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