• Kyodo

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Japan on Sunday threw its full support behind the new Palestinian leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas and announced a new $60 million aid package to the Palestinian Authority.

Visiting Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura revealed the aid plan in a meeting with Abbas, who won the Jan. 9 presidential election and succeeded the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

“I said (to Abbas) that the Japanese government will fully support the Abbas administration,” Machimura later told a news conference.

Abbas pledged to do his “utmost to realize peace in the Middle East” and said he is willing to resume talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, according to Machimura.

Abbas will visit the Gaza Strip on Wednesday for talks with members of the Hamas militant group, a Japanese source said.

The aid Machimura pledged to Abbas is part of Japan’s humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

The amount will bring the total sum of Japan’s assistance to the Palestinians in fiscal 2004 through March 31 to about $90 million, more than double that in the previous year and matching the record high set in fiscal 1996, Japanese officials said earlier.

Machimura said he invited Abbas to visit Japan, a proposal the new Palestinian leader accepted.

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