Rich countries' spending on official aid to the world's poor leapt to a record high in 2005 due to large debt relief packages for Iraq and Nigeria, the OECD said on Tuesday.

Aid rose 31.4 percent to $106.5 billion, a sum which represents 0.33 percent of their gross national income and is half way towards the long-standing U.N. goal of 0.7 percent.

The increase from 0.26 percent in 2004 was driven by a surge of more than 400 percent in aid in the form of debt relief. But even after stripping out debt relief, aid rose by 8.7 percent, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

It is good news and the underlying trend is good but countries will need to change the mix of instruments, said Brian Hammond, head of statistics and monitoring in the secretariat of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee.

We are still expecting quite a lot of debt relief in 2006 but after that countries need to deliver on their longer-term programmes if they are to meet the U.N. goals.

The committee, the main body through which the Paris-based think tank deals with issues related to cooperation with developing countries, is made up of 22 countries and the European Commission.