The World Bank announced it has approved a $125 million loan to the Republic of Belarus for a project meant to improve energy efficiency in heat and power generation.

This is the largest loan we have made to Belarus to date, said Martin Raiser, a World Bank Country Director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, according to a statement released Thursday.

We support the Belarussian authorities in their efforts to increase energy security, reduce carbon emissions and lay the foundation for competitiveness and growth through improved energy efficiency, he said.

The international financial group said that in recent years, Belarus has made significant efforts to reduce energy intensity and improve efficiency. It notes that with rising energy import prices and against the impact of the global economic and financial crisis, these are the country's top priorities.

The project's total cost is $193.10 million. It will be implemented by Belarus state enterprise under the Committee of Standardization, the agency responsible for the National Energy Efficiency Program.

The World Bank has made commitments to Belarus of $443 million for eight operations since the country joined the world bank in 1992.

The World Bank loan for the current project has a maturity of 16 years including a 6 year grace period. Implementation of the World Bank funded project will begin in 2009 and will take five years, the bank said.

The World Bank said it supports Belarus in improving people's lives by enhancing the competitiveness of the country economy to assure rising incomes and protecting the welfare of the weakest and addressing global environment, and energy challenges.