Bush pledges U.S. will help once Argentina adopts sound plan for economic reform

Friday, January 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush spoke by phone Friday with Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde, and pledged to help the country through its financial crisis once it has committed to a sound and sustainable plan for economic reform.

Bush expressed to Duhalde ``our heartfelt appreciation for the difficulties that the people of Argentina are facing,'' said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, and agreed to support Argentina as it works on reforms through the International Monetary Fund and other institutions.

``The president expressed his willingness to work with the Argentinian government as it confronts their serious economic challenges,'' Fleischer said. ``President Bush also underscored that once Argentina has committed to a sound and sustainable economic plan, working with the international financial institutions, the United States is willing to support Argentina.''

The IMF shut off a crucial $1.3 billion bailout in December after Argentina failed to meet budget-cutting targets. That prompted Argentina to announce days later it was suspending payments on its $141 billion public debt.

Duhalde, who took office Jan. 2, has devalued the peso to 1.4 per dollar for most business transactions. The currency now floats freely for ordinary transactions.