Nicolas Sarkozy backs early debt relief for Ivory Coast


PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy threw his support behind the Ivory Coast's bid for early IMF-backed debt relief during a visit by the West African nation's president to Paris.

The Ivory Coast hopes to secure debt relief early this year, but it depends on the progress it makes implementing reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange.

On a two-day state visit to Paris, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said the reforms had been carried out and urged France to use its leverage with the IMF to help obtain an accord on debt relief in the first quarter - earlier than the mooted timetable of the second half of this year.

"The Ivory Coast needs its debt to be cancelled and help to get moving ahead. There is no time to lose," Sarkozy told journalists on Thursday.

The country has sought to reassure investors that it aimed to quickly pay arrears on its 2032 $2.3 billion bond, but has said the timetable hinged on IMF debt relief.

The Ivory Coast defaulted on the bond during the four-month conflict which broke out after November 2010 elections that ultimately brought Ouattara to power.

"The Ivory Coast has now implemented all the measures required by the Bretton Woods institutions, especially on coffee and cocoa reform and energy," Ouattara said.

"There is no reason any more for an observation and waiting period," he added.

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