Japan is facing the possibility that its total aid to Iraq would more than double under increasing international pressure to waive Iraq’s foreign debts, Foreign Ministry officials said Sunday.

Japan has pledged $5 billion for Iraq’s reconstruction, but if it forgives Iraq’s total debts of $7 billion, the largest among the Paris club of major creditor nations, the total aid amount would reach $12 billion, the officials said.

The sum is almost equal to the amount — $13 billion — it disbursed for the 1991 Persian Gulf War, they said.

When it committed $5 billion in an international donors’ conference for Iraq last month in Madrid, it was expecting other nations not to accept U.S. calls to forgive Iraq’s $125 billion in foreign debts.

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow at the conference called for debt relief for the Iraqi people, but Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Japan would find it difficult to offer fresh yen loans if it is required to forgive Iraqi debts.

Japanese officials expected the U.S. request to be ignored, as Washington only has $4 billion in credit to Iraq, following years of hostile policy against Baghdad.

But to the surprise of the officials, France, the third-largest creditor nation following Japan and Russia, was positive about the proposed waiver in what is viewed as a reconciliatory move with the United States following disagreements over the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

France is now expected to join the U.S. in pressing other nations to forgive debts.

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