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Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and Gerhard Schroeder, the visiting German Chancellor, reaffirmed Monday that Japan and Germany will cooperate closely in preparations for the Group of Eight summit meeting next year in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.

During their talks, held Monday evening at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence, Obuchi asked for cooperation from Schroeder, who chaired the G8 summit in Cologne in June, in the runup to the Okinawa summit, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Schroeder expressed Germany’s full support for Japan’s preparations to date, adding that without Japan’s support, the Cologne summit could have failed to agree on the initiative to assist heavily indebted nations, the official said.

Turning to the question of reform of the United Nations, including the issues of strengthening its treasury and increasing the number of permanent members on the Security Council, Obuchi expressed his intention to take the initiative at the millennium session of the U.N. General Assembly, planned for some time next year, the official said.

In response to Obuchi’s stated desire that Japan be granted a permanent seat on the Security Council, Schroeder said that Germany also hopes to be granted a seat on the U.N. panel, the official said.

The two leaders also pledged to continue their global partnership in dealing with such issues as the reconstruction of war-torn Kosovo, building a nation in East Timor and nurturing democracy in Indonesia, the official said.

On domestic economic issues, Obuchi said that despite government efforts to deal with Japan’s more than 700,000 unemployed, the situation is still severe, the official said.

Commenting on Obuchi’s efforts to deal with unemployment, Schroeder proposed the creation of a bilateral forum between the two nations’ management, labor unions and labor authorities as part of efforts to reduce unemployment levels. Obuchi and Schroeder agreed that they would arrange for the details of such a forum to be organized, the official said.

Japan and Germany, the world’s second- and third-largest economies, respectively, are experiencing similar economic problems. The signs of economic recovery seem to have become stronger, but there are still many weak areas that need attention.

In the latter half of 1998, Germany suffered an economic slowdown as a repercussion of the economic crises in Asia and Russia, but has since regained its strength because of increased private consumption and investment in equipment. Its gross national product will grow an estimated 1.5 percent in real terms this year.

A self-sustained recovery in the labor market has yet to be achieved, however, and as of the end of September, the 4 million unemployed in Germany accounted for 10.1 percent of the working population.

Schroeder arrived in Nagoya on Sunday on a three-day visit to strengthen ties in talks with Japanese government and business leaders. This is Schroeder’s first visit to Japan since he took office in October 1998.

Earlier Monday, Schroeder met with the Emperor at the Imperial Palace and was joined later by the Crown Prince and Obuchi for a lunch with the Emperor.

Schroeder is scheduled to meet with business leaders here today and leave for China later in the day, where he will meet with President Jiang Zemin in a visit through Friday.

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