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Japan is considering contributing around $100 million to a United Nations-proposed fund to fight AIDS, which is spreading particularly rapidly in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa, government sources said Thursday.

The government will decide on the size of the contribution before a forthcoming annual summit of leaders from the Group of Eight major countries. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected to unveil the figure at the summit, the sources said.

The AIDS issue is expected to be high on the agenda at the three-day G8 summit, which will open in the Italian port city of Genoa on July 20. The G8 comprises the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The sources said the government is likely to use its official development assistance budget to make the contribution.

Japan remained the world’s largest ODA provider to developing countries for the past decade, extending well over $10 billion annually. But its ODA budget for fiscal 2001, which started in April, was slashed by 3 percent amid tight fiscal conditions brought by the continued domestic economic slump.

In his White House meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo last month, U.S. President George W. Bush pledged to contribute $200 million to the fund.

Most of the other G8 countries, including Japan, are expected to reveal their respective financial contributions to the fund at the Genoa summit.

After securing the pledge from Bush, Obasanjo met with Koizumi in Tokyo last month and asked Japan to contribute to the fund. Koizumi replied that Japan is ready to make “appropriate” contributions but did not specify the amount.

The proposed fund is also expected to top the agenda at a three-day special U.N. General Assembly session on AIDS, which will begin June 25 in New York.

At the Genoa summit, G8 leaders are also expected to discuss the management, operations and other details of the U.N.-proposed fund based on discussions held during the special U.N. General Assembly session.

Although most G8 countries are expected to pledge contributions to the proposed fund in Genoa, the combined contributions are expected to be a far cry from what Annan wants. The U.N. secretary general has said his organization hopes to secure between $7 billion and $10 billion for the fund through the international community, including private companies and nongovernmental organizations.

According to the U.N., some 36 million people are infected with the AIDS virus around the globe, nearly 70 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. A record 3 million people died from the disease last year.

At the last G8 summit in Okinawa, Japan announced it would provide $3 billion in aid over five years to help developing countries, especially those in Africa, combat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases. Although Japan pushed the other G8 countries to follow suit, the call fell on deaf ears.

In recent years, Japan has focused more of its diplomatic attention on Africa, evidenced most recently by a January tour of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria by then Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the first African tour ever made by a Japanese prime minister.

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