• Staff report


Senior Iraqi clergymen expressed gratitude Monday for Japan’s reconstruction efforts in their country and asked for further support in the fields of medicine, electricity and the media.

During a meeting with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, members of the Inter-religious Council of Iraq, a nonsectarian organization of Shiites, Sunnis and Christians, voiced hope that Japanese firms and citizens’ groups will come to Iraq to help rebuild the nation, according to a ministry official.

The religious leaders cited medical support for children, restoration of hospitals and electric power generation, and technical support for media organizations, as key fields where assistance is needed, the official remarked.

“The security situation in Iraq is gradually improving,” Seyed Hassan Bahralulom, a Shiite member of the council, was quoted as saying by the official. “But we still need outside support for reconstruction.”

Kawaguchi said the Self-Defense Forces deployed to the southern Iraq city of Samawah engage in humanitarian aid activities and Tokyo has pledged to provide $5 billion in aid by the end of 2007.

She thanked the religious leaders for their efforts when five Japanese nationals were briefly held hostage in Iraq in two separate occasions in April by gunmen demanding that Japan withdraw its troops from Iraq.

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