• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday the planned launch of a Japan-led international initiative to improve security in Iraq, amid a proliferation of arms following the liberation of the Middle Eastern country from the Islamic State extremist group.

Abe said in a multilateral meeting in Tokyo attended by his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi that his country will set up a working group to help local authorities collect weapons that have spread across the country, provide vocational training, and create jobs for former fighters as well as local residents.

Preventing the further spread of automatic rifles and other arms is a major challenge that should be tackled in the war-torn country, according to Japanese government officials.

“By urging (former fighters and local residents) to voluntarily submit weapons to the government and reduce the number of them…we can create a safe society,” Abe said in his speech.

Abadi said, “After autocracy and barbaric wars, now is the time for Iraqi men and women of all ages to join hands toward peace and prosperity.”

Working-level officials from around 30 countries, including the United States and Britain, and international organizations such as the World Bank gathered at the meeting that was co-hosted by the Japanese and Iraqi governments.

Welcoming the move, Abadi said the participants agreed to kick-off the initiative.

More than three years after Islamic State seized the northern city of Mosul, the Iraqi government in December last year announced that operations against the militant group were over.

Abe also expressed Japan’s readiness to expand the bilateral support to rebuild Iraq following the expulsion of the Islamic State.

During their talks in Abe’s office, Japan’s prime minister promised around ¥35 billion ($328 million) in low-interest loans for irrigation systems, water supply and sewerage projects.

He also said in a press conference afterward that the two countries shared the view that Japanese companies have an important role to play in reconstructing Iraq.

“Utilizing Japan’s fund power and technologies, we would like to realize our goal to create jobs and develop our economy,” Abadi said.

The Iraqi prime minister, who assumed the post in September 2014 immediately after the rise of the Islamic State, is seeking to put his country on the road to recovery following years of turmoil in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He paid a two-day visit to Tokyo through Thursday.

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