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African debtor countries, with backward economies drained by huge outflows of revenue, are being urged to join forces with Latin American and other third-world borrowers to wring more relief out of creditors. ``African countries should cooperate with other debtor countries, particularly the Latin American countries, in order to strengthen the debtors' position as a whole,'' says Philip Ndegwa, a former governor of the Central Bank of Kenya. His comment came in a paper presented Tuesday to a seminar on Africa's $240 billion foreign debt crisis.

In 1988, debt-servicing repayments swallowed up two-fifths of Africa's export income, experts said.

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The 150 delegates attending the unprecedented three-day seminar, which opened Monday, included officials of multilateral lending institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, commercial bankers, and diplomats from Western and East-bloc countries.

The Organization of African Unity arranged the gathering to discuss technical and political issues raised by creditors wary of accepting a four-year-old OAU proposal for a formal international conference on Africa's debt.

Ismail Sabri Abdallah, a former Egyptian minister of economic planning, predicts that Africa's debt could ``explode'' to $1.5 trillion by the year 2002 unless it gets substantial relief.

Africa's top economist, Adebayo Adedeji, had predicted a $550 billion debt at the end of the century. The Nigerian executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa says urgent action was needed to slash Africa's debt so the continent can recover from the economic crises of the 1980s.

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