Indonesia pushes 'donations' above loans

11th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 11 (AFP) - Indonesia's foreign minister, Hasan Wirayuda, said Tuesday that proposed international debt relief for his disaster-hit country was welcome but stressed that such measures should take into account Jakarta's long-term struggle with social reforms as well.

PARIS, Jan 11 (AFP) - Indonesia's foreign minister, Hasan Wirayuda, said Tuesday that proposed international debt relief for his disaster-hit country was welcome but stressed that such measures should take into account Jakarta's long-term struggle with social reforms as well.

The December 26 tsunami had caused "completely heartbreaking" death and destruction in Indonesia's Aceh province, Wirayuda told journalists in Paris.

It put the country in the dilemma of now having to "quickly tackle the tragedy in Aceh and at the same time consolidate democracy" by also combatting poverty and unemployment, he said.

France and Germany have proposed that the Paris Club of creditor nations - which is to meet Wednesday - put a moratorium on repayments of Indonesia's debt of USD 132 billion (EUR 100 million).

French President Jacques Chirac assured Wirajuda of France's support for a debt moratorium.

"Indonesia can count on the support of France in terms of emergency aid, a moratorium on debt and help toward reconstruction according to the needs identified by the Indonesian government," Chirac said during an hour-long meeting with Wirayuda.

Wirayuda did not expressly call for debt forgiveness instead of suspended reimbursements but said in general terms that his country would prefer "donations" to more loans.

Nevertheless, he did make plain the deep gratitude Indonesia felt for the help it has received from France, among other countries, calling it "a comfort".

With international help, he said, "we will overcome this ordeal."

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, at Wirayuda's side, said France had sent emergency teams and humanitarian aid to Indonesia immediately after the disaster struck and promised "long-term" assistance.

He added that Paris was prepared to offer Indonesia debt relief in the amount of EUR 130 million (USD 171 million) this year as part of a debt repayment freeze.

"Concerning the debt there is a French-German initiative in favour of a moratorium," Barnier told reporters here.

"In the case of Indonesia, if this initiative were implemented, it would mean an effort by France worth EUR 130 million in 2005 to enable Indonesia to devote this amount to reconstruction."

Wirayuda hailed France's "extraordinary generosity", both public and private, in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

The French state and individuals and businesses have pledged a combined total of more than EUR 145 million (USD 190 million) to the countries affected by the tsunami.

Paris has also sent military ships and 1,000 personnel, and spearheaded with Germany the calls for debt relief, while French non-governmental aid workers have deployed.

The Indonesian minister said the safety of aid workers and other foreigners in Aceh province "cannot be entirely ensured" because of a continuing conflict with rebels there.

But he said the insurgents and Jakarta had struck a "gentleman's agreement" to stay attacks during the period of emergency aid and reconstruction.

Wirayuda was to meet French President Jacques Chirac later Tuesday, then attend the Paris Club meeting on Wednesday.

He arrived from London, where he met British Prime Minister Tony Blair and senior ministers to discuss the foreign debt issue. During a joint media conference with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Wirayuda said his country sought "any schemes that would allow us operating space."

After the Paris Club meeting, he is to continue his European tour by visiting Italy and Germany.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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