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Musharraf Seeks Financial Aid in Tokyo

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is in Tokyo, primarily to seek financial aid and debt forgiveness. So far, the Japanese government has given no indication that money will be flowing any time soon.

President Musharraf has spent three days in Japan reassuring his largest creditor that Pakistan is committed to the war against terrorism and moving toward democracy.

He has been hoping to get relief from billions of dollars in debt as well as more financial assistance. Pakistan has been hit with a flood of Afghan refugees and has been hurt economically by the U.S.-led war on terrorism in the region.

But Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had little more than encouraging words for Mr. Musharraf - stressing the need for Pakistan to take more concrete action in reducing tensions in South Asia.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Tokyo Thursday, Mr. Koizumi asked Mr. Musharraf to sign the international nuclear test ban treaty and urged him to do more to resolve its dispute with India over the Kashmir region.

Both India and Pakistan have rejected calls to sign the treaty and have deployed tens of thousands of troops to their border amid heightened tension in recent months. Japan halted loans and aid to both countries in 1998 after they conducted surprise nuclear tests. Some of those restrictions have been eased since the U.S.-led war against terrorism began last year - but the bulk of aid remains frozen.

Mr. Musharraf acknowledged Japan's concerns, saying that Islamabad maintains a policy of restraint on nuclear issues. He went on to make the case that his government is taking a strong stand against terrorists in Pakistan and moving to create a modern Muslim state - and therefore needs help to ensure stability. "I briefed the prime minister about my government's program of economic and political reforms and restructuring aimed at establishing a stable democracy and bringing good governance into Pakistan, rebuilding institutions and alleviating poverty," he said.

Islamabad has previously asked Tokyo to write off a debt of $5 billion. So far, there is no sign that Mr. Koizumi has agreed to that request.

Mr. Musharraf leaves Tokyo on Friday.