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Afghanistan Fears Global Rivalry Over Mineral Wealth

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he is concerned about a looming international battle over his country's untapped mineral wealth and that major aid donors should be given priority for investment.

President Karzai told reporters in Tokyo that there will be a "rivalry over resources, especially now that the world knows the significance of Afghan resources."

Afghanistan's mining minister, Wahidullah Shahrani, said Thursday the country's untapped mineral deposits, including lithium, iron, copper, gold and cobalt, could be worth up to $3 trillion.

President Karzai, who is on a five-day visit to Japan, says Afghanistan should favor investments from countries that have helped Afghanistan the most in the past few years. Japan is the second largest donor to the country, after the United States.

Mr. Karzai said he planned to visit Japanese trading company Mitsubishi Corporation later on Friday to discuss mining investment.

While Afghan and U.S. officials say the newfound wealth will benefit the Afghan people, some have warned it will take years to convert the mineral resources into wealth. Challenges include a lack of infrastructure and security, with some of the deposits located in Taliban strongholds.

During talks with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday, President Karzai promised to use Japanese financial support to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai thanked the Japanese leader for his support and said the Afghan government is working to fight corruption.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.