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Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze asked trade chief Kaoru Yosano on Friday to help the former Soviet Union state develop a port and other infrastructure by utilizing trade insurance and yen loans, an official of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said.

Identifying no specific projects other than development of Poti, a key local port, Shevardnadze said such governmental assistance should encourage Japanese companies to invest in his country.

Yosano replied that he will encourage business circles to establish a joint committee with their Georgian counterparts to discuss ways to promote local investment.

Yosano also said the government will send Noboru Hatakeyama, chairman of the Japan External Trade Organization, to Georgia to pave the way to activate Japanese investment and export from the region.

Expressing hope that Georgia will develop sound dialogue with the International Monetary Fund on financial assistance to the region, Yosano promised to back Georgia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization soon.

Speaking at the Japan National Press Club earlier in the day, Shevardnadze reiterated his gratitude toward Japan for helping bring stability to his nation through humanitarian and economic support. “For Georgia, Japan has been one of our most important aid donors since we declared independence,” he told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. “Without Japanese support, we could not have managed the difficult times after independence.”

The Japanese government agreed Thursday to further provide Georgia with 370 million yen in grants-in-aid to increase food production and another 300 million yen in nonproject grants-in-aid to support its economic reforms.

In April 1991, Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union amid a civil war, resulting in isolation from the international community. But the turmoil has subsided since Shevardnadze took office in November 1995.

Recently, Georgia has made attempts to scale down its security ties with Russia. Last month, Shevardnadze reportedly indicated Georgia may leave the collective security arrangements of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a Russia-hosted group of former Soviet republics, when its security treaty expires in April.

Shevardnadze stressed as a personal view that the current security arrangements are unnecessary without comprehensive CIS reforms, but said it will take more time before Georgia makes any decision on the matter.

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