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Japan will provide about $10 million in emergency food and medical aid to the new Yugoslav government set up by opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica to help ordinary Yugoslav citizens get through the winter, government sources said Tuesday.

The sources said the emergency aid plan for Yugoslavia will be formally approved at a regular Cabinet meeting Friday after it is approved by a Liberal Democratic Party panel in charge of foreign-policy affairs.

About half of the $10 million will be granted to Belgrade directly while the remaining half will be disbursed through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the sources said.

The government dispatched a fact-finding mission to Yugoslavia last week to explore possible areas of economic assistance, the sources said. The mission was led by Takahiro Shinyo, a deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s European and Oceanic Affairs Bureau.

Kostunica was formally sworn in as the new Yugoslav president Oct. 7 in a ceremony that marked a popular triumph over Yugoslavia’s former president, Slobodan Milosevic. On the eve of Kostunica’s presidential inauguration, Foreign Minister Yohei Kono issued a special statement welcoming the establishment of a new Yugoslav government.

In addition to the aid, the Japanese government is considering lifting economic sanctions that were imposed on the country in concert with the U.S. and other industrialized countries in Europe, the sources said.

Japan’s sanctions include a ban on fresh Japanese investment by private firms, suspension of visas for Yugoslav government officials and the freezing of Yugoslav assets in Japan.

The government is also considering extending economic assistance in cooperation with the U.S. and the 15-nation European Union to help rehabilitate the battered Yugoslav economy, the sources said.

But one government source said some people within the government and the ruling LDP are reluctant about, if not opposed to, providing large-scale economic aid. Yugoslavia’s economy was damaged by heavy NATO air strikes during the Kosovo war in spring last year.

Japan has been the world’s largest single aid donor for the past nine straight years.

At the annual summit of the Group of Eight major countries in Okinawa Prefecture in July, the G8 countries — the U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia — issued a statement condemning the repressive Yugoslav regime of President Milosevic.

Yugoslavia was the main political topic of discussions among the G8 leaders in Okinawa, but Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the summit host, stayed almost silent on the topic, suggesting a lack of interest in — and knowledge about — the Balkan country.

So why is Japan keen to provide economic assistance to Yugoslavia?

One reason is probably that Japan, as a major economic power bidding for permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council, wants to demonstrate its firm resolve to help ensure peace and development not only among its Asian neighbors, but also in the rest of the world.

Another reason is apparently Japan’s strong desire to retain the continued cooperation of the EU in ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Japan has called on the EU in recent years to continue to show an interest and play a role in an international consortium that was set up to put a halt to North Korea’s suspected nuclear weapons program in return for its cooperation in ensuring peace and development in Balkan countries.

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