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Japan will send a senior government official to Afghanistan to hold talks on a Japanese proposal to set up a demobilization registration agency to help find employment for soldiers who have fought in Afghanistan’s civil war, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Friday.

Kawaguchi arrived in Tehran earlier in the day for a three-day visit. She had offered the agency initiative in talks with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai during a visit to Kabul on Wednesday.

Nobutaka Miyahara, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Middle East Division, will travel to Afghanistan, possibly this week, to discuss the matter with Afghan government officials and U.N. representatives in Kabul, Japanese officials said.

According to Japanese officials, the proposed agency would provide job training and find employment for the demobilized soldiers.

Japanese officials said Karzai welcomed the Japanese proposal, which he said would encourage local warlords to disarm and improve security in the war-torn country.

Kawaguchi said Japan is prepared to undertake the entire demobilization registration project but would welcome cooperation from other countries. “We will work with the United Nations and hope the project can be realized as soon as possible,” Kawaguchi told reporters.

Japan backs peace

JERUSALEM (Kyodo) Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Taku Yamasaki said Friday that Japan hopes to actively participate in the U.S.-proposed international peace conference on the Middle East.

Japanese officials said Yamasaki conveyed Japan’s position in a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.

The meeting with Peres came after Yamasaki held talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah earlier in the day.

Arafat, who was freed after a monthlong siege of his headquarters in Ramallah by the Israeli military, urged Japan to play an active role in helping get the imperiled Middle East peace process back on track, Japanese officials said.

Peres, who spent an hour with Yamasaki at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told him that Israel is eager to have the peace conference convened as early as possible, instead of waiting until summer, as Washington has suggested.

Peres dismissed allegations of a massacre by the Israeli military in Jenin, a Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank, and suggested that Israel blocked a U.N. fact-finding mission to Jenin because the city was a place where the “police” were fighting “the Mafia.”

Peres also blamed the Palestinians for a fire at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

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