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The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday unveiled a 4.16 billion yen aid project aimed at encouraging Afghanistan soldiers to leave the military and rejoin society as civilians.

The announcement was made ahead of a four-day visit to Japan by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, beginning Thursday. Japan and Afghanistan have exchanged relevant documents in Kabul, the ministry said.

There are between 150,000 and 200,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, of which 100,000 must be discharged in line with reorganization of the country’s military and police forces.

The aid will be used to build facilities aimed at providing discharged soldiers with an education and employment training, it said.

In earlier commitments, Japan pledged humanitarian aid worth some $427 million, or about 51.2 billion yen, to Afghanistan.

During his stay in Japan, Karzai is expected to meet with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and to attend a Tokyo conference focusing on Afghanistan’s disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

Pakistan loans eyed

ISLAMABAD (Kyodo) Japan will consider resumption of new soft loans after signing an agreement with Pakistan to reschedule repayment of current loans, Ambassador to Pakistan Minoru Shibuya said Wednesday.

Shibuya said negotiations for rescheduling Pakistan’s outstanding external debt have been completed and an agreement will be signed soon in Islamabad. Pakistan, with external debts of $36 billion, owes Japan about $6 billion.

Under a World Bank agreement, Pakistan has been negotiating to reschedule its debt repayments.

Japan and other donors suspended new aid to Pakistan after it carried out nuclear weapons tests in May 1998, matching similar tests by India.

Shibuya said Wednesday any new loans for Pakistan will come only after it begins paying down its current debts.

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