National

Nakasone, Spanta agree on need for fair Afghan election

TRIESTE, Italy (Kyodo) Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta agreed Friday on the need for a free and fair presidential election in Afghanistan in August, a Japanese official said.

The agreement was reached during their meeting on the fringes of Group of Eight foreign ministerial talks in this northern Italian port city.

Nakasone relayed to Spanta Tokyo’s plan to send an election-monitoring team. A government source said the team would be made up of around 10 members and selected chiefly from ministry personnel.

In response to Spanta’s call for assistance from Japan in agriculture, energy supplies, infrastructure building and education, Nakasone was quoted as saying Japan will continue to help reconstruct the war-torn nation.

Separately, Nakasone met with Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday, also on the sidelines of the G8 foreign ministers’ talks.

Qureshi expressed his appreciation for Japan’s hosting of a donors’ conference in Tokyo in April, at which Pakistan garnered more than $5 billion in fresh aid for a two-year period from July, a Japanese official said.

Nakasone was quoted as saying Japan will continue providing aid to Pakistan, including for Islamabad’s fight against terrorism, so as to bolster bilateral relations in a number of fields.

The three-day G8 foreign ministerial gathering is a preparatory session for the annual G8 summit to be held this year in L’Aquila, Italy, from July 8 to 10.

The G8 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Japan-Canada talks

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and Canadian counterpart Lawrence Cannon agreed Friday to launch a bilateral strategic dialogue, a Japanese official said.

The first meeting between vice ministerial-level officials from the two countries will likely take place around fall, the official told reporters.

The dialogue framework will be used to exchange views on the strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region and how to cooperate in dealing with challenges.

After the vice ministerial-level talks, the framework should have a ministerial-level meeting, probably sometime next year, the official said.

The ministerial-level talks could take place either when Canada hosts the Group of Eight powers’ meetings or when Japan chairs Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum sessions, both next year, according to the official.

The two discussed other issues as well, including continuing to study the impact of a possible free-trade agreement and North Korean threats.