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Japan Pledges Further Support for Afghanistan


Afghanistan is receiving a positive reception from Japan for continued support amid a rising tide of violence directed at foreigners in the country. Afghanistan's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, wrapping up an official visit to Japan, has called on Tokyo and others to continue to support the U.S.-backed government that replaced the Taleban.

"This is what we expect from Japan - to stay with Afghanistan, committed in long term. That's what we are expecting [from] the United Nations, to stay in Afghanistan," he said. "Recently President Karzai visited Brussels. He asked for NATO's long-term partnership."

Japan has responded positively. The country's foreign ministry says Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told Mr. Abdullah that Japan is willing to continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, as well as Japanese aid for the country's reconstruction efforts.

The renewed pledge comes amid escalating violence against foreigners and Afghan civilians there. Suspected Taleban militants on Thursday ambushed and killed at least six people working for an international aid group as they were driving on the main national highway in the southern part of the country. It is the second attack in two days against Western groups assisting with the reconstruction of the war-shattered nation.

Mr. Abdullah will soon travel to Washington with Afghan President Hamid Karzai where they are to meet President Bush, other U.S. lawmakers and the new head of the World Bank.

Despite recent anti-American protests in Afghanistan, the foreign minister says Mr. Karzai will push for a "strategic partnership" with the United States that would include long-term military assistance, as well as strong political and economic ties.

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