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United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged Japan to consider providing food aid to North Korea, New Komeito chief Takenori Kanzaki said Saturday.

Kanzaki said he conveyed the request to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

“I’ll consider (the matter) with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda,” Koizumi replied in a telephone conversation Friday night, said Kanzaki, who met with the U.N. leader during a visit to the United States last week.

Fukuda has already told Kanzaki that it would be difficult to resume food aid to North Korea, according to a New Komeito party official.

Japan and North Korea held normalization talks at the end of October in Kuala Lumpur. After that, however, dialogue between the two countries stalled, mainly because of sharp differences over North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals.

Koizumi said in late February that he was not considering food aid to North Korea because “Japan and North Korea are currently negotiating on normalizing ties and we are not yet at a stage of talking about (food) aid.”

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said around the same time that the United States intended to provide up to 100,000 tons of food assistance to North Korea this year.

Japan provided 500,000 tons of food to North Korea through the World Food Program in 2001, but the amount dropped to zero the following year.

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