News In Brief

The US economy shot up at a 5.6 percent annual rate during the final three months of 1998, the Commerce Department said. For the year, the gross domestic product (GDP), the total of goods and services produced, increased 3.9 percent. That follows an identical burst in 1997 and a healthy 3.4 percent rise in 1996 - making the three-year period the nation's most robust growth period since 1984-86. A price index tied to the GDP rose 1 percent last year, the lowest growth rate since 1959.

The most generous terms "ever given to a country" have been granted to deeply indebted Pakistan by Western lenders, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced. The new terms, negotiated with the "Paris club" of creditor nations, gives Pakistan up to 20 more years to repay $3.3 billion of its overall $32 billion foreign debt - after a 4-1/2 year grace period during which major "structural reforms" are to be implemented. Despite the staggering debt, recent failure to pay a $1.7 billion installment, and an economy burdened by new international sanctions following last May's nuclear-weapons tests, donors began issuing $4 billion more in loans to Pakistan last month.

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