UPDATE 1-Default-stricken Zambia's debts creep higher

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(Adds Zambia finance ministry comment, context, external debt figures)

LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - Default-stricken Zambia published figures on Wednesday showing that its total public debt stock climbed to $32.8 billion, including interest arrears at the end of last year, of which $18.6 billion was external.

At the end of June 2022 its total debt including interest arrears was $32.5 billion, with $17.5 billion external.

Zambia has been looking to restructure its debt after becoming the first African country to default during the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020.

"Zambia urgently needs a significant reduction in its debt burden," the country's Ministry of Finance said in an accompanying statement. "Zambia enjoys productive and positive relationships with all its creditors and is hopeful that an agreement on debt restructuring can be reached swiftly."

Zambia's finance minister

earlier this month

said he was hopeful debt restructuring could be agreed to by the end of March or shortly after and that there were meetings being conducted with China, its largest bilateral creditor, on an almost weekly basis.

(Reporting by Marc Jones and Rachel Savage; Editing by Karin Strohecker and Mark Porter)