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World Bank May Relax Rules for Russian Loan

From Associated Press

Up to $2 billion in long-delayed U.S. loans to Russia’s oil and gas industry could be freed next month under a World Bank proposal to relax its loan requirements, a bank official said Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition he not be named, said the World Bank staff proposed Monday that it end its insistence that Russia first adopt new economic reforms.

The board that represents the bank’s member countries is due to take up the proposal here Dec. 14, behind closed doors.

Loans to Russia for American equipment and know-how would be made or guaranteed by the U.S. government’s Export-Import Bank, which has been planning them for more than two years.

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Russia would promise to repay the money with earnings from sales by its oil and gas industry, still largely owned by the state as it was under the communist government.

The World Bank also has a claim on borrowing countries’ earnings as a guarantee of repayment of its own loans to Russia, most recently a $610-million loan to improve Russia’s oil industry.

The bank’s competing claim on Russian assets has made it impossible for the U.S. to go ahead with its loans.

Last March the World Bank agreed to waive its claims on assets of Russia and other countries emerging from communist rule. But it still insisted on stiff economic conditions before it would issue a waiver.

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