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    Russia may ease 12 HIPC countries' debt by $350 mln - ministry

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    MOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia may cancel another 12 countries' debt by a total of $350 million as part of an international debt alleviation initiative, a Russian deputy finance minister said Thursday.

    "There are another 12 countries on the list [of countries that may have their debt forgiven under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Debt Alleviation Initiative]," Sergei Storchak said.

    He said the move applies in particular to Guinea, Congo, Chad and Burundi.

    He said earlier that Russia is prepared to write off debt for seven HIPC countries and that debt alleviation agreements could be signed in the second half of 2007.

    He also said Russia and North Korea have taken a break in negotiations on settling Pyongyang's debt to Moscow.

    "At this stage we have taken a pause," he said, adding the Korean side is considering Russian proposals.

    He said no agreement has been reached yet, but negotiations will continue.

    Storchak said earlier North Korea's debt to Russia stands at about $8 billion.

    "We will seek to restructure the debt," the deputy minister said.

    Moscow said earlier that over the past few years, it has written off or pledged to write off more than $16 billion debt for African countries.

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