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Koizumi Considers Lifting Economic Sanctions on Pakistan, India - 2001-10-23

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is hinting that economic sanctions on Pakistan and India could be lifted as early as this week. Pakistan, a critical U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, recently asked Japan to review the sanctions and to cancel $5 billion in debt.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has indicated that, as a show of support for Islamabad, Tokyo could soon cancel its current economic sanctions against Pakistan. Pakistan has sided with the United States in the U.S.-led war against terrorism, despite heavy economic costs and strong opposition from some of its own citizens to the air strikes taking place over the border in Afghanistan.

Japan is one of the United States' key allies in East Asia and has repeatedly voiced firm backing for the military action. Tokyo is in the process of enacting new legislation so that it can offer the United States and its partners non-combat military support.

Mr. Koizumi told Parliament Tuesday that Japan could simultaneously lift sanctions against Pakistan and India to promote stability in the region. Mr. Koizumi says that "Japan must consider Pakistan's current difficulties and cannot stand idly by." He says "Japan has to think about economic support for Pakistan, as well as a similar adjustment for India."

Japan imposed sanctions on India and Pakistan three years ago, after they carried out nuclear tests. Japan, once a victim of atomic warfare, is a staunch supporter of nuclear non-proliferation around the world.

Japan's Asahi newspaper says that the government hopes to announce a decision on the sanctions before Prime Minister Koizumi sends envoy Yoshiro Mori to India, and ahead of a visit to Tokyo by Pakistan's Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz. Both trips are scheduled for next week.