Canada requests delay in Congo debt relief

Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:11pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank on Tuesday postponed a decision on writing off the debt of the Democratic Republic of Congo at Canada's request, a board official told Reuters.

A World Bank spokeswoman confirmed the delay, which comes on the eve of Congo's 50th independence jubilee.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila had wanted the debt canceled before the June 30 celebration to show the world his country was putting its painful past behind it following a brutal 1998-2003 war in which some five million people died.

"A short postponement of the board discussion was requested by one of the executive directors," the spokeswoman said.

The World Bank board official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the postponement was related to Canada's unhappiness over a legal dispute between Canada-based First Quantum, a major investor in Congolese mining, and the Congolese government.

The company is seeking international arbitration after the government sealed up its $700 million Kolwezi copper tailings project following a review.

The World Bank board was set to approve an estimated $8 billion in debt relief for Congo at the meeting on Tuesday and it was unclear exactly when the issue would be discussed, although one Bank official said it could happen on Thursday.

The Bank's sister organization, the International Monetary Fund, was still scheduled to consider Congo's debt relief on Wednesday, according to the IMF website.

Approval by both the World Bank and IMF boards is needed to secure the debt relief.   Continued...