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Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said Wednesday that Japan will freeze economic aid in the form of grants to India, except for those for emergencies and humanitarian purposes, to protest three nuclear tests conducted Monday.

Calling the tests “extremely regrettable,” the prime minister also said Japan will decline to host the India Development Forum, an international conference on economic assistance to India, to be sponsored by the World Bank and scheduled to be held in Tokyo on June 30 and May 1.

“Japan will call on members of the Group of Eight countries to issue a clear message (against nuclear tests) during a planned meeting later this week,” Hashimoto told reporters.

Hashimoto, who is scheduled to fly to Britain today, met reporters at the his Official Residence prior to his trip to Birmingham to attend the summit meeting of leaders from the Group of Eight major world powers.

Hashimoto said the nuclear tests should be discussed by leaders of the G-8 member countries — the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia — during the three-day meeting to start Friday.

Japan, the largest economic assistance donor to India, may also decide not to provide India with new yen loans depending on future reaction over the nuclear testing issue. One of the main issues on the summit meeting agenda will be matters related to the international economy, including problems concerning the Asian financial crisis.

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