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French Version

Japan announces $16 million in new aid for Jordan

Koizumi wraps up middle east tour

Japan on Friday unveiled more than $16 million in fresh aid to Jordan as part of its effort to support the crisis-hit region and secured support from the Jordanian king for an aid plan for the Palestinians.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on the final leg of his first Middle East tour, offered the package during talks with Jordanian Prime Minister Maarouf al-Bakhit at the royal palace in the Red Sea port city of Aqaba.

Twelve million dollars will go to a Jordanian project to fight poverty in the country and $4.6 million will be allocated to improving water supply, the Japanese government said.

"The stability of Jordan is very important for the stability of the Middle East," Koizumi told Bakhit. "I hope the assistance will help Jordan pursue economic and social reforms of the country."

During talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, Koizumi announced $2 million for a World Bank feasibility study on a canal between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea.

"If the project is undertaken, Jordan is the largest beneficiary," the Japanese government said.

Koizumi separately announced a Japanese initiative to create a four-party framework between Japan, Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan to develop areas of the Jordan Valley.

Koizumi and Jordan's King Abdullah II held talks late Thursday at the palace, and both expressed "deep concern" about the escalating crisis.

"It may be exaggeration, but [the current situation] appears close to the one on the eve of the 1967 Middle East war," said King Abdullah, who is making behind the scenes mediation efforts for the release of the captured Israeli conscript.

Koizumi, who is scheduled to fly to Saint Petersburg on Saturday for this year's Group of Eight summit, said: "I would like to inform [G8 partners] about what I learned from this trip." Bakhit asked Koizumi to take the lead in urging Israel to exercise "maximum self-restraint" and in delivering a message to the world that dialogue is the only solution to the crisis.

During talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday, Koizumi announced nearly $30 million in fresh aid to the Palestinians. He has proposed talks between Japan, Jordan, Palestinian Authority and Israel to coordinate further humanitarian efforts.

Japan is the third-largest donor of aid to the Palestinians after the United States and the EU. But, because of the violence, Koizumi acknowledged that now might not be the most opportune time to move ahead with his plan for the four-way talks. He stressed, however, that his visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah showed Japan's strong support for Abbas.

Koizumi's visit, the first in 11 years by a Japanese premier, was overshadowed by the escalating Middle East crisis.

Koizumi's visit to the Middle East also comes as Japan is pulling some 600 troops out of Iraq. Koizumi was expected to discuss the situation there with his Jordanian counterpart during their visits.

Japan sent the troops to the southern Iraq city of Samawah on a humanitarian mission two and a half years ago.

Amman,07 24 2006
The Daily Star
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