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China to forgive old Afghan debt

March 28, 2004 at 10:02 AM

BEIJING, March 28 (UPI) -- The Chinese government says it has decided to write off an $18 million debt the Afghan government owed.

"This is a friendly gesture from the Chinese government and the Chinese people," Chinese Ambassador Sun Yuxi said during a joint news conference Saturday held with Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani.

The Afghan government's debt dates to 1965.

"This is also significant for our further financial assistances," the Chinese diplomat said. "We conclude the old debt, and so we can continue to have new commercial and financial relations between us."

Forgiving the old debt will pave the way for China to participate in more rebuilding in Afghanistan. Currently, China is rebuilding a hospital in Kabul and an irrigation system in Parwan Province to the north of Kabul, reported Xinhua, China's main government-run news agency.

After the Afghan transitional government was created in 2001, China announced an assistance program totaling $150 million, according to Xinhua.

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