Iraqi foreign minister Hoshya Zebari to meet Koizumi, defense chief, wrap up Tokyo trip

Iraq's foreign minister met Friday with Japan's defense chief on a visit that has won debt waivers from Tokyo but no clear decision on extending Japan's troop dispatch in support of U.S.-led reconstruction efforts.

Hoshya Zebari, who arrived Wednesday, was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi later in the afternoon.

The day before, Zebari repeated his country's request that Japan extend its dispatch of about 600 noncombat troops to the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, where they have been conducting humanitarian works such as purifying water and rebuilding schools.

The mission expires Dec. 14, but Tokyo hasn't decided whether to renew it. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso told Zebari that Japan would decide soon on whether to extend the mission, giving consideration to Japan's "international responsibilities and the state of reconstruction work."

Koizumi, who favors a more active role for Japan in international security, has suggested that Japan's efforts in Iraq aren't finished. Last month, Japan approved a one-year extension of its naval mission to support U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.

Zebari separately won a waiver from Japan for about US$6.1 billion (Ђ5.17 billion) in debt, or about 80 percent of the US$7.6 billion (Ђ6.44 billion) owed Tokyo by Baghdad. Iraq will repay the remaining debt over 23 years, including a 6-year grace period.

The agreement comes after members of the Paris Club, which represents the world's main creditor nations, decided to reduce by 80 percent the US$38.9 billion (Ђ31.8 billion) Iraq owes to its member states. The United States last year forgave Iraq 100 percent of its debt of US$4.1 billion (Ђ3.3 billion).

Iraq owes another US$80 billion (Ђ65.4 billion) to various Arab governments, mainly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Zebari is scheduled to leave Japan on Saturday, AP reports. P.T.

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