Pope calls for cancellation of poor nations' debt

 Pope Benedict XVI has called rich nations to cancel the debts of the world's poorest countries. "Provision must be made for the rapid, total and unconditional cancellation of the external debt of the heavily indebted poor countries and of the least developed countries, the Holy Father said in a letter to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. The Vatican has this week published letters exchanged between the Pope and the German chancellor, discussing the upcoming Group of Eight Summit to be held this June 6 to 8 in Heiligendamm, Germany. In his letter, Pope Benedict says: debt cancellation "should be given the highest attention and priority, for the sake of poor and rich countries alike." At the same time, he adds there should be a substantial investment of resources for research and for the development of medicines to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other tropical diseases. In the letters both the Pontiff and the German Chancellor agreed that poor countries should be relieved from servicing the debts for effective development, and measures should be adopted to ensure that the countries do not fall once again into situations of unsustainable debt. The Pope's letter, dated December 16, says: "I welcome the fact that the question of poverty, with specific reference to Africa, now appears on the agenda of the G8." The Holy Father underlines that, "while these challenges should be undertaken by all members of the international community, the G8 and the European Union should take the lead." In her reply on February 2, Merkel write: "For me it is crucial that G8 relations with Africa move towards a reform partnership." She also says: "Our aim is to change the strategies for combating HIV/AIDS so that they take special account of the situation of women and girls." Source: CISA

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