Government ministers from some of the world's richest countries have agreed to a moratorium on debt repayments by countries affected by the Asian tsunami.

Members of the informal group of 19 creditor countries known as the 'Paris Club' met in the French capital today.

The group comprises Austria, Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the US.

Earlier, the UN humanitarian relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland, said he was very encouraged by the response of the international community to the Asian tsunami crisis.

Last week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said $1bn would be needed in the short term to make a real difference to the relief effort in the countries worst affected.

Indonesian deadline on foreign troops

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has said foreign troops helping the tsunami aid effort in the country's Aceh province must leave by the end of March.

Officials said that foreign aid workers and journalists in the province must also now register travel plans.

It is believed the decision was made because the Indonesian army wants to re-establish control over Aceh, where it has been battling separatist rebels.