COLOGNE, Germany (AP) _ Leaders of the seven leading industrialized nations and Russia pledged Sunday to rapidly conclude a debt rescheduling deal for Russia, as soon as Moscow fulfills criteria set out by the International Monetary Fund.

In a communique at a three-day summit, the Group of Eight said the Paris Club of governments and other official creditors should continue reviewing the issue of Soviet-era debt to support Russia in its efforts to achieve economic stability and lasting growth.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose country holds the bulk of Soviet-era debt, said Russia was in a special situation ``where one has to help as best possible.'' He said there could also be bilateral debt negotiations.

``But we can't just write it off. That would overtax Germany's strength,'' he told a news conference. ``We'll talk about the problem and will certainly find a solution.''

With Schroeder's government scraping around for major budget cuts, a Russian debt writeoff would be politically unpopular.

Soviet-era debt totals about $69 billion owed to other governments and private banks.

The leaders said the aim was a broad resolution of the debt issue once Russia has created conditions allowing it to implement more ambitious economic reforms.

The G-8 welcomed the recent framework agreements between Russia, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and said they hope that they will be implemented rapidly.

Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said Saturday that Russia would comply with IMF requirements, despite resistance by the Russian parliament.

The G-8 leaders said they had instructed aides to follow up and coordinate the effort on to supporting Russian economic reforms. They said they were keen to deepen their cooperation on the application of law, transnational organized crime and money-laundering, including its links with capital flight.

The billions of dollars, much of it international aid, that has flowed out of Russia in recent years will be one of the main themes of a ministerial meeting on crime to be held in Moscow in the autumn.