Nicaragua backs SDF role, seeks more Japan investment

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Nicaragua supports Japan’s decision to have its Self-Defense Forces join a multinational force in Iraq, visiting Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos said Thursday.

“Japan, with its humanitarian aid, will be doing a very good act to help the Iraqi people and restore their country and to bring a better way of life in Iraq,” Bolanos told The Japan Times.

He said Nicaragua wants to join the multinational force, but does not have the money to send its troops to Iraq.

Nicaragua dispatched 115 military personnel to Iraq in July to engage in reconstruction efforts. But the government withdrew the troops at the end of February because of a funding shortage.

Bolanos said that unlike Japan, there was little domestic opposition when he decided to send Nicaragua’s military forces to Iraq.

“As Nicaragua has been a recipient of a large amount of humanitarian assistance, we want to repay with the same assistance we received,” he said.

He urged Japanese businesses to increase investment in his country, which he described as a gateway to the integrated market of North and Central America.

Nicaragua has a free-trade agreement with Mexico, and four Central American states, including Nicaragua, have signed FTAs with the United States. He said his administration is currently in the final stage of FTA negotiations with Canada.

“We have created a big region of free-trade flow of goods and services,” he said. “Anyone investing in Nicaragua will have access to that huge consumer market.”

Bolanos thanked Japan for its generous economic aid to Nicaragua, which has suffered prolonged internal conflicts and natural disasters.

Japan, one of the largest aid donors to Nicaragua, provided $31.4 million in 2002.