Western creditor nations have suspended consideration of Poland's request to reschedule repayment of $2.5 billion to $3 billion worth of debt coming due in 1982, diplomatic sources said today.
The decision, taken here yesterday at a private meeting of the "Paris Club" of financial officials from the 16 creditor nations, is designed to maintain pressure on Poland's military government to begin restoration of civil rights and halt repression of the Solidarity-led liberalization movement. Urged by the United States, the decision put into practice an agreement Monday by foreign ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to tighten economic pressures on Warsaw because of "massive violations" of civil liberties.
In some ways, the move is more of a holding action than a substantive decision--such as rescheduling the debt or declaring Poland in default--taken because the Western nations were known to be reluctant to send a signal that might be misinterpreted by Polish officials in an uncertain situation. It effectively bars Western consideration of new Polish financing requests, however.
The suspension of negotiations over the 1982 debt does not affect an agreement last July in which the creditor countries postponed repayments of principal and 90 percent of the interest on loans that fell due during 1981, the sources said.
Officials from the 16 countries, meeting under the chairmanship of France's assistant treasury director, Michel Camdessus, drafted a letter to Polish Finance Minister Marian Krzak formally notifying him of the suspension.
No date was set for reviewing the decision, the sources added. But the NATO ministers laid down an end to martial-law repression as a condition for renewed general financial cooperation with Polish authorities, and the main condition for reconsideration of the request to reschedule the 1982 debt.
Polish indebtedness, estimated at more than $26 billion to Western governments and private banks, is emerging as a major lever in U.S. and allied efforts to show concern about the crackdown by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's government.
Against European reluctance to impose effective economic sanctions, some senior Reagan administration officials suggested earlier this month that the United States warn its NATO allies it could declare Poland in formal default on its loans, reports in Washington said. This was resisted by other Cabinet members, however, because of fears it would harm the NATO alliance and push Poland more completely into Soviet arms, the reports said.
In addition, should the administration attempt to extend the pressure on Poland to private banks owed more than half the total Polish debt--or about $16 billion--the effect could be to harm Western financial institutions. The Warsaw government also is engaged in strained negotiatons in an effort to win delay in payment of about $300 million in interest that came due in 1981.