Russian Debt Rescheduling Seen as Close

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CREDITOR nations may reach a rescheduling plan on the former Soviet Union's official debt by April 3, on the eve of a summit between United States President Clinton and beleaguered Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Sources close to negotiations starting March 31 by the so-called Paris Club of creditor governments said that a deal was close to reschedule some $17 billion to $18 billion of debt.

Conclusion of such an accord has been delayed for months as Russia and Ukraine ironed out differences on the division of former Soviet assets abroad and responsibility for debt service.

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The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russia would probably pay about $2 billion of interest on its debt this year, in line with Moscow's requests.

Without a rescheduling, the Russians would have to pay some $20 billion of foreign debt interest this year.

Total Soviet foreign debt is estimated by multilateral lenders at about $85 billion, of which a little over half is considered official debt, owed to creditor nations.

The progress comes ahead of an April meeting of the Group of Seven industrial democracies in Tokyo to discuss support measures for the embattled Mr. Yeltsin.

Yeltsin is to attend a summit April 3-4 with Mr. Clinton in Vancouver, British Columbia, aimed at showing international backing for him in his struggle with Russia's legislature.

The situation is quickly taking on added urgency, as almost 52 percent of the former Soviet debt stock payments come due between 1993 and 1995.

Paris Club creditors have been granting quarterly rollovers on principal payments, but Russian authorities want to go beyond this to medium-term rescheduling.

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