LUSAKA - Zambia's President Hakainde Hichilema said on Thursday that the government is actively engaging with China on the southern African country's long-delayed debt restructuring, as it tries to line up a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Zambia has been in default since 2020 and its hopes of restructuring its debt have been hampered by the concerns of its main creditors, including China - its largest official bilateral lender, about the scale of relief required.

Hichilema said he hoped that the restructuring of Zambia's debt would be agreed on at the next meeting of the nation's official creditors and that he would engage with all those that would help resolve the debt crisis.

"That's why we are engaging China and soon we will be there," Hichilema said, rejecting what he said were opposition attempts to "polarise this process by saying the... government is anti-China".

Hichilema told media earlier this month that arrangements were being made for him to meet President Xi.

"We are in the queue. The foreign minister of China and our foreign minister, our ambassador and other diplomats are working to make this meeting happen," Hichilema said at the time.

The International Monetary Fund said last week that it had updated its debt sustainability analysis for Zambia, which forms the basis of restructuring negotiations.

It has previously said that a $188 million payout to Zambia from a $1.3 billion rescue loan is contingent on it reaching a deal with its official creditors.

Zambia's central bank raised its key interest rate to 9.5% on Wednesday after annual inflation rose to double digits in April.

It said further delays in debt restructuring negotiations, tighter global financial conditions and the impact of a prolonged Russia-Ukraine war on food and energy prices posed risks to the inflation outlook.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula, Editing by Rachel Savage and Hugh Lawson)