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said Thursday it plans to suspend foreclosures for 30 days for homeowners with Citigroup-owned mortgages.

Under the program, which begins Friday, Citigroup will halt all foreclosure sales on first mortgage accounts nationwide through Jan. 17. The bank also will cease evictions.

Citigroup's program affects only those loans owned by the bank, about 20% of the company's $746 billion mortgage servicing and lending portfolio, Citigroup said.

Citigroup said the suspension will affect about 2,000 borrowers scheduled for foreclosure and another 2,000 that were to receive foreclosure notifications in the next 30 days.

"We hope that with this suspension we can make the holidays a little less stressful for our customers who are going through a very difficult time," said Sanjiv Das, president and CEO of Citigroup's mortgage division, in a statement.

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Most major lenders suspended foreclosures last winter while the Obama administration developed its $75 billion loan modification program. Foreclosures picked up again after those suspensions lifted. In recent months, they have fallen as banks evaluate whether borrowers qualify for the government program.

Citigroup has enrolled about 100,000 borrowers in the Obama program, but had made only about 270 of those modifications permanent as of the end of last month, according to a Treasury Department report. Das told the

Associated Press

the low number resulted from a "reporting error" and said it will rise dramatically by year-end.

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-- Reported by Joseph Woelfel in New York.

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