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Tsunami-hit Sri Lanka has accepted a Paris Club offer to freeze its debt payments until the end of 2005, but plans to press lenders to extend the moratorium to the end of 2007, the island’s finance minister said on Friday. Tsunami-hit Sri Lanka has accepted a Paris Club offer to freeze its debt payments until the end of 2005, but plans to press lenders to extend the moratorium to the end of 2007, the island’s finance minister said on Friday. The Paris Club grouping of the world’s richest creditor nations offered on Thursday to freeze payments of tsunami-hit countries until the end of 2005 and allow deferred payments to be repaid over five years, with one year’s grace.

“Of course, while we are very grateful for this decision, which will help us to tide over the immediate difficulty … we would like to lobby with the G8 to extend this to even 2006 and 2007,” Amunugama told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He said the country’s reconstruction programme after the devasting Dec. 26 tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean would take up to five years.

“So we would very much like it if the Club could extend this,” he said.

Sri Lanka estimates it will cost around US$ 1.8 bn to rebuild shattered communitie