In Debt? Ring Up the Louvre

A select club hears Third World pleas for payment relief

Jean-Pierre Marlet, owner of the tony Club de Paris bar just off the Champs Elysees, has a problem. Officials with strange-sounding names and bizarre accents often telephone his establishment, asking to discuss their governments' foreign debts. Says Marlet: "No one ever gets credit here, and I have enough debts of my own to worry about." The experienced manager instead refers his callers to a telephone number at the French Finance Ministry on the Rue de Rivoli.

There importunate foreign callers discover a much weightier Paris Club: a discreet group of officials from 16 industrialized countries who meet regularly to ponder overdue...