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Mitterrand in South America : France Offers Support in Debt Crisis

October 21, 1985|From Reuters

CARTAGENA, Colombia — French President Francois Mitterrand has used his first trip to South America to pledge France's firm backing for young democracies threatened by spiraling foreign debt.

Both in Brazil, where his weeklong tour began, and in Colombia, where it ended Sunday, Mitterrand hammered home his view that the fate of creditor and debtor nations was closely linked and that a solution was possible only by sharing the burden.

"France favors a political dialogue to solve the debt issue," a French official close to the presidency said, commenting on Mitterrand's talks with President Jose Sarney of Brazil and Colombian President Belisario Betancur.

"It has been saying that for some time now, and Mitterrand himself is known to seek drastic reforms to the world monetary system. What mattered is that he said this in Latin America."

During his talks with Sarney, Mitterrand pledged to defend the interests of Brazil, the Third World's biggest debtor with debts of $103 billion, and said developing nations must be allowed other options than recession or stagnation.

In Bogota, he praised Colombia's "wise" handling of its economy, which has allowed the country to avoid rescheduling its foreign debt.

Although France did not offer concrete proposals to solve the debt problem, Mitterrand said details of French assistance to Brazil were being discussed at a technical level.

The French leader also stressed that failure to tackle the debt issue at a political level would endanger democracy.

"This was music to the ears of Sarney," a Western diplomat said.

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