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Bush Thanks Koizumi for $1.5 Billion Contribution for Iraq Reconstruction - 2003-10-17

President Bush is in Tokyo where he thanked Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for pledging $1.5 billion to help rebuild Iraq.

Prime Minister Koizumi held an informal dinner for the president and Mrs. Bush who stopped in Tokyo for the night on their way to the Philippines.

President Bush thanked the prime minister for contributing to Iraq's reconstruction and for helping to pass a new U.N. resolution that the White House hopes will encourage other nations to give more money for Iraq at a donors' conference in Spain next week.

Japan's $1.5 billion pledge is part of what is expected to be a larger $5 billion package to be announced at that donor's conference.

A senior administration official says Prime Minister Koizmui said he is making the contribution not as a favor to the United States but because a stable Iraq is in Japan's national interest.

The administration official says the two leaders also discussed multilateral efforts to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. They agreed that Pyongyang should not benefit from greater involvement in the international community until that weapons program is stopped.

President Bush restated his support for a strong dollar and the need for exchange rates to be set by market forces.

A senior administration official says the Japanese Prime Minister said he understands the president's push for a strong dollar but feels that rapid fluctuations in exchange rates could disrupt financial markets.

Washington wants Tokyo to allow the value of the yen to float more freely on the currency market. U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow has criticized Japan for trying to keep the yen artificially low by selling the currency for dollars.

Japanese authorities have sold more than $120 billion worth of yen this year to slow the advance of the currency, which is up almost 10 percent against the dollar. Devaluing the yen allows Japanese exporters to sell more goods in the United States, further deepening the U.S. trade deficit.

President Bush will continue to discuss U.S. concerns over regional exchange rates at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand.

The trip also includes stops in the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia.