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Japan and Nigeria agreed Tuesday to build a “special partnership” to deal with African problems and cooperate in combating infectious diseases such as AIDS.

In talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, visiting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo asked Japan to follow the U.S. and provide financial support for fighting Africa’s AIDS problem, a Foreign Ministry official said.

President George W. Bush pledged $200 million when Obasanjo visited the U.S. earlier this month.

Koizumi replied that Japan is ready to make “appropriate” contributions without specifying the amount.

He said Japan will continue to provide assistance for Nigeria’s democratization, conflict prevention, refugee problems and food production.

“It is time for Japan to see Nigeria as a special partner for African development,” Obasanjo was quoted as saying, pointing out that his nation of 120 million people has the biggest population on the continent.

Referring to Yoshiro Mori’s visit to Nigeria in January — the first by a Japanese prime minister — Koizumi said Japan wants to further strengthen the bilateral relationship.

Obasanjo, who took office in May 1999, led Nigeria’s democratization effort to put an end to 16 years of military rule.

He is one of the leaders of Millennium Africa Program, in which African countries cooperate in solving persisting problems on the continent, such as conflicts, infrastructure development and infectious disease.

Koizumi said he expects Nigeria to take a leadership role in discussing such initiatives at an international conference on African development scheduled for December in Tokyo, the official said.

Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka and her Nigerian counterpart Sule Lamido, who were present at the meeting, afterward exchanged notes on specific assistance measures.

Japan pledged to disburse $80,000 for a U.N. project on conflict prevention in Nigeria, which will be used for holding conferences on civic education before local and presidential elections are held in 2002 and 2003.

Japan also pledged up to 41.7 million yen in grant aid for Nigeria’s national television network’s purchase of TV programs and up to 340 million yen for agricultural projects.

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