Lawmakers helping to prepare for the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi Prefecture pledged Wednesday to step up efforts to invite more countries to become official participants.

“I ask for your cooperation so that Britain, Australia and other countries may become participants,” former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, who heads the association of lawmakers promoting the exposition, told a meeting of the legislators.

Thus far, 55 countries and six international organizations, including UNESCO, have expressed their intention to participate in the event, commonly known as Aichi Expo 2005.

The fair, which will focus on development and environmental protection, will run from March 25 to Sept. 25 in 2005 as the first world expo in the 21st century and the first large exposition in Japan since Expo 1970 in Osaka.

Shoichiro Toyoda, honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corp. and head of the expo organizing body, told the meeting, “We are making efforts to secure the official participation of more than 100 countries in order to realize communications among nations on a global scale.”

The organizing body expects 15 million visitors to attend the event.

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