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France Calls for Cancellation of Haiti's Debt

France has asked the Paris Club of creditor nations to speed up the process of canceling Haiti's debt.

France's Economy Minister Christine Lagarde says she has contacted other members of the Paris Club to accelerate the cancellation of Haiti's debt of nearly $78 million.

Haiti did owe $84 million. But Lagarde says about $6 million has been canceled since Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

France chairs the Paris Club, which in July agreed to cancel most of the debt owed by Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

In addition to France, the Paris Club includes the United States, Britain, Japan, Russia, Germany and 13 other countries.

On Thursday, French President Nicholas Sarkozy called for an international conference on rebuilding Haiti, a former French colony.

France has sent planeloads of emergency aid and rescue teams to Haiti. Mr. Sarkozy said he plans to visit Haiti in the coming weeks.

France also Thursday said it is suspending deportations of illegal Haitian immigrants, and will temporarily open its borders to earthquake victims who need help.

France is home to about 80,000 Haitian expatriates. Haiti was a French colony from 1697 until it won independence in 1804. French is still one of Haiti's official languages, along with Creole.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.