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Cablegate: Paris Club - July 2006 Tour D'horizon and Afghan Debt

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #5024/01 2061238
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251238Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9765
INFO RUEATRS/DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
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UNCLAS PARIS 005024

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EB/IFD/OMA
TREASURY FOR DO/IDD AND OUSED/IMF
SECDEF FOR USDP/DSAA
PASS EXIM FOR CLAIMS -- EDELARIVA
PASS USDA FOR CCC -- ALEUNG/DERICKSON/KCHADWICK
PASS USAID FOR CLAIMS
PASS DOD FOR DSCS -- PBERG
BELGRADE PASS TO PODGORICA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN ECON EAID XM XA XH XB XF FR
SUBJECT: PARIS CLUB - JULY 2006 TOUR D'HORIZON AND AFGHAN DEBT
NEGOTIATION


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

-------
SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) At the July 18-19 meeting of the Paris Club, creditors
agreed on exceptionally generous debt relief for Afghanistan, which
achieved three main objectives: (1) 92% of Afghanistan's debt stock
will be canceled immediately; (2) all interest falling due between
now and the end of the IMF program will be deferred; and (3) all
three creditors reiterated their commitment to forgive 100% of the
debt once Afghanistan completes the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries
(HIPC) process. The secretariat reported that Angolan Finance
Minister de Morais told Paris Club Chairman Musca that Angola is
seriously considering a precautionary Stand-By Arrangement with the
IMF, presumably as a means to obtain debt relief from the Paris
Club. Angola owes the Paris Club $4.5 billion, of which $4.1
billion is in arrears, and is eager for new financing. Spain and
Japan reported that Argentina plans to approach the Paris Club as
early as September with a proposal for normalizing relations. Other
countries on the agenda included Algeria, Brazil, Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC), Georgia, Guyana, Iraq, Malawi,
Nicaragua, Serbia and Montenegro, Seychelles, and Zimbabwe.

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AFGHANISTAN
-----------
2. (SBU) Creditors agreed to a treatment that reduces Afghanistan's
debt from $11.3 billion to $800 million - a level of cancellation in
excess of 92%.

-- Russian claims, amounting to $11.2 billion, are subject to an
immediate 80% write-off consistent with the MOU on Russia's
accession to the Paris Club.
-- All remaining debt is treated under standard Naples flow terms.
-- All interest accruing during the period of the IMF's Poverty
Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) is capitalized and repaid over
a six-year period beginning in 2011. Interest on capitalized
interest is also deferred until 2011.
-- A symbolic cutoff date of June 1999 was chosen to highlight
Afghanistan's anticipated HIPC status.
-- The Agreed Minute contains a goodwill clause stating creditors'
commitment to top up to Cologne terms at decision point and to
provide additional debt relief at completion point.
-- In the press release, creditors reiterated their commitment to

forgive 100% of the debt once Afghanistan completes the HIPC
process. Unlike at the London Conference, Russia did not insist on
language tying debt relief to investment opportunities.

3. (SBU) Earlier in the week, Afghanistan signed a long-awaited
debt reconciliation agreement with Russia, clearing the way for
negotiations to proceed. The reconciliation agreement covered all
claims in the clearing account held between Vnesheconombank and the
Afghan central bank, resulting in a slight upward revision to the
total debt owed to Russia. The Afghan delegation, led by Vice
Finance Minister Mujib, did not dispute the numbers.

4. (SBU) The negotiations the following day were not nearly as
contentious or protracted as had been anticipated, largely thanks to
the behavior of the Russian delegation. For the most part, the
Russians were uncharacteristically flexible and cooperative - at
times even suggesting useful ways to address Afghan concerns. The
secretariat, for its part, was exceptionally helpful throughout the

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process. Most importantly, the secretariat made the case for
capitalizing all interest payments during the three-year PRGF
period, including interest on capitalized interest. Moreover, the
secretariat's repayment scheme gives Afghanistan an additional two

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years to reach completion point before capitalized interest falls
begins to fall due.

5. (SBU) The IMF was not as helpful as hoped on the issue of
Afghanistan's HIPC eligibility. The Fund said Afghanistan's HIPC
eligibility was possible, but would not go so far as to say that
eligibility was probable based on preliminary estimates. The
mission chief admitted privately that Afghanistan's export numbers
stand to increase once the IMF includes non-factor services, which
risks bringing the external debt-to-exports ratio close to the HIPC
threshold.

6. (SBU) Afghan Finance Minister Ahady seemed delighted by the
outcome and personally thanked the U.S. delegation for its
assistance. It is important that the Afghans now perform on their
PRGF. While it is impossible to say with certainty whether Russia
will deliver 100% cancellation at completion point without
conditions, at this stage it appears to be acting in good faith.

-------
ALGERIA
-------
7. (U) Creditors reported on the status of Algeria's prepayment

operation. Italy and Switzerland continue to work with the Algerian
authorities to complete the transaction. All other participating
creditors have received their prepayment.

------
ANGOLA
------
8. (SBU) The secretariat reported on Paris Club Chairman Xavier
Musca's July 13 meeting with the Angolan authorities. Angolan
Finance Minister de Morais told Musca that Angola is seriously
considering a precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the IMF,
and that he simply needs the approval of President dos Santos before
formally applying to the Fund. The IMF confirmed that a mission had
visited Luanda to discuss the modalities of a possible SBA, but said
negotiations had not yet begun. Musca urged de Morais to send a
letter to the Paris Club by the end of the month clarifying Angola's
intentions and committing to resume debt service in full. Musca did
not, however, deliver the three-pronged message agreed by creditors
in May. (That message consisted of the following elements: (1)
creditors urge Angola to resume payments and to commit to clear
arrears; (2) creditors encourage Angola to pursue an IMF program;
and (3) a resumption of payments by Angola could lead some creditors
to reopen credit lines. The message suggests that arrears clearance
could take place over a period of three to six years.)

9. (SBU) Spain, supported by Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, and
Sweden, protested that Musca should have delivered the three-pronged
message - especially the first point regarding arrears clearance and
the resumption of debt service - while at the same time expressing
support for an IMF program and an eventual Paris Club treatment.
The secretariat responded that delivering the message agreed in May
would have had the unwanted effect of convincing Angola not to
pursue an IMF program since the message could be interpreted as
conveying creditors' acceptance of a de facto rescheduling of
arrears without an IMF program. In the end, creditors agreed not to
take any action until Club's next meeting in September, by which
time Angola should have clarified its intentions with respect to the
IMF. If an IMF program does not appear likely, creditors will
revert to the strategy developed in May.

---------
ARGENTINA
---------
10. (U) Creditors reported on their bilateral contacts with the
Argentine authorities. Spain said President Kirchner, during a

recent visit to Madrid, expressed Argentina's willingness to
approach the Paris Club in the fall, but did not indicate what sort
of debt treatment it would seek. Spain denied press reports that
Kirchner had vowed to repay the $835 million Spanish loan disbursed
during the 2001 financial crisis. Spain said it merely reiterated
its position - already well known to Kirchner - that it cannot
support a Paris Club treatment that includes this loan. (The
secretariat indicated that the loan should be included, but accorded

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senior status because it was issued after the cutoff date for any
rescheduling.) The UK said it met with an Argentine finance
ministry official based in London. Contrary to what Kirchner told
the Spanish, this official gave the impression that Argentina would
not address its Paris Club debt until 2007. Japan, on the other
hand, said Finance Secretary MacLaughlin told Japanese embassy
officials in Buenos Aires that Argentina planned to make a proposal
to the Paris Club in September but would not ask for debt reduction.
MacLaughlin added that Argentina would reach out bilaterally to
Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and the U.S.

------
BRAZIL
------
11. (U) Creditors reported on the status of Brazil's prepayment
operation. Germany and Italy said arrears were still outstanding.
While Germany was optimistic that the issue would be settled soon,
Italy said legal action could not be excluded. The Netherlands and
Canada said their arrears had been cleared since last month. All
other participating creditors have received their prepayment.

----------------------------
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
----------------------------
12. (U) The secretariat took stock of creditors' policies for
invoicing the DRC now that interim HIPC relief has been suspended.
Most creditors are not invoicing for payments coming due and do not
expect to receive any payments. A few creditors (Canada, France,
Japan, US) are legally obligated to invoice, but have not received
any payments.

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GEORGIA
-------
13. (U) The vice finance minister of Kazakhstan has sent a letter
to the Paris Club disputing the terms of a debt restructuring sought
by Georgia. (Georgia received a Paris Club rescheduling on Houston

terms in July 2004. Under the terms of this agreement, Georgia must
seek comparable treatment from its non-Paris Club creditors,
including Kazakhstan.) Georgia maintains that late interest should
not accrue after July 2004. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, believes
that any debt restructuring on Paris Club-comparable terms should
include late interest up to the date of the restructuring. The
secretariat will contact both parties to try to resolve the dispute.

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The secretariat will emphasize that it is not the Paris Club's role
to dictate whether Kazakhstan has the right to charge late interest,
but that the club will judge comparable treatment based on the usual
three criteria (i.e., duration, net present value, and flow
relief).

------
GUYANA
------
14. (U) The government of Guyana has sent a letter to the
secretariat stating its intention to conclude a debt settlement with

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one of its non-Paris Club creditors on terms that are not consistent
with the club's comparability of treatment requirement. The
creditor in question - Citizens Bank - is Guyana's fourth largest
commercial bank. The government argues that if it forced Citizens
Bank to accept a settlement on Paris Club-comparable terms, the bank
would go bankrupt, which in turn would pose a systemic risk to the
domestic financial system. The secretariat said it would seek more
information from the Guyana authorities before recommending a course
of action to Paris Club creditors. The secretariat suggested (and
the USDEL agreed) that Paris Club creditors may wish to consider
some flexibility in the assessment of comparable treatment when the
disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

15. (U) In 1992, the government of Guyana assumed the liabilities
of Guyana Mining Enterprise Limited (Guymine). At the time,
Guymine's debt was owed to external creditors. In December 2003,
Guyana reached HIPC completion point, and the following month,
received completion point treatment in the Paris Club. In the
Agreed Minute, Guyana committed to restructure its non-Paris Club
external debt - including the ex-Guymine debt - on Paris
Club-comparable terms. The government now argues out that the
ex-Guymine debt, which was converted to bonds in 1994, is no longer
owed to external creditors and therefore should no longer be subject
to comparable treatment. Of the $27 million in ex-Guymine debt
outstanding, 98% is owed to Citizen Bank.

----

IRAQ
----
16. (U) Russia said it hopes to sign its bilateral agreement with
Iraq in Moscow next week. Russia is the only Paris Club creditor
that has yet to conclude a bilateral agreement with Iraq
implementing the 2004 Paris Club Agreed Minute.

------
MALAWI
------
17. (U) The IMF said HIPC completion point could come to the
executive board at the end of August if prior actions are completed.
Completion point negotiations in the Paris Club could take place in
the fall. The U.S. does not have any claims.

---------
NICARAGUA
---------
18. (U) Creditors discussed Nicaragua's difficulties in obtaining
comparable treatment from Libya. Nicaragua is seeking 91%
cancellation, consistent with its January 2004 HIPC completion point
treatment in the Paris Club, whereas Libya is offering to cancel 67%
of its claims and is threatening litigation to recover the balance.
In order to assist Nicaragua, creditors agreed that the secretariat
should contact the Libyan authorities in Paris to discuss the
situation and follow-up the discussions with a letter to the Libyan
government, if appropriate.

-------------------
SERBIA / MONTENEGRO
-------------------
19. (U) The secretariat noted that Serbia had reached a debt
allocation agreement with Montenegro. The secretariat will produce
a working paper that discusses how the agreement will impact Paris
Club creditors' existing bilateral contracts with Serbia.

20. (SBU) The secretariat also briefed creditors on the process by
which Serbia intends to allocate a portion of its debts to Kosovo.
The secretariat said Serbia is planning to contact Paris Club
creditors individually to request documentation to help the
authorities identify the final beneficiary of loans extended to
Serbia. Kosovo may make a similar request. Some creditors
(Germany, Netherlands) said they were reluctant to provide any
information until Kosovo's final status has been determined. The
secretariat responded that a simple request for loan documentation

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was not unreasonable, and that, moreover, the United Nations is
overseeing the overall process. The U.S., France, and the
Netherlands cautioned against making any prior commitments to treat
Kosovo's debt in the Paris Club so as to avoid creating the perverse
incentive for Serbia to unload as much debt as possible.

----------
SEYCHELLES
----------
21. (U) At the request of the UK, the secretariat will draft a
letter to the Seychellois authorities calling on them to normalize
relations with the Paris Club. The letter will be sent after the
country's presidential elections later this month. (The U.S. is not
a creditor.)

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ZIMBABWE
--------
22. (U) At the request of the US, the secretariat will send a
letter to the Zimbabwean authorities calling on them to clear
arrears to the Paris Club. A similar collection letter was sent in
April 2005. The Netherlands said it had received some payment on a
non-ODA loan following legal action. The IMF reported that China
had recently extended a 1.3 billion dollar loan to Zimbabwe for a
coal mine and power plants, collateralized by chrome exports. The
World Bank said that loan and a similar 50 million dollar loan
extended by a European private bank and collateralized by nickel
exports may violate the Bank's "negative pledge" clause and prevent
further lending.

---------------------
Paris Club Data Calls
---------------------
23. (U) In response to complaints from export credit agencies that
the data call process is too complicated, the secretariat agreed to
convene a technical meeting on the margins of the September 2006
Paris Club session to try to find ways to simplify the process.

STAPLETON#

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