LUSAKA - Zambia's creditors are in the next few weeks expected to form a committee to examine the sustainability of the nation's debt and determine the amount of relief they are willing to offer, Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said on Friday.

"We anticipate that the official creditor committee will be formed within the next few weeks, paving the way for the restructuring discussions," Musokotwane said in parliament.

The discussions on Zambia's debt, at 120% of GDP, are expected to culminate in creditors providing financial assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the approval of a $1.4 billion extended credit facility, he said.

In 2020, Zambia became the first country to default in the pandemic era, buckling under a debt burden that rose to $31.74bn at the end of 2021, 17% higher than six months earlier.

Although the committee would comprise bilateral creditors, Musoktwane said commercial creditors would also be invited to provide relief to Zambia to ensure burden-sharing.

"Everything is going according to plan," Musokotwane said, adding that the Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA), which forms the basis of restructuring plans, had been completed.

Musokotwane told Reuters in February that he hoped the DSA would be finished by the end of the month and that Zambia would reach an understanding with creditors in March or April, which would then pave the way for a formal IMF agreement by May.

That timeline was deemed ambitious by analysts, given that the creditor committee had not yet been formed.

Musokotwane told parliament the government was aiming for an IMF deal "by the middle of this year".

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Additional Reporting by Rachel Savage; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Barbara Lewis)