Iraq leader in Japan for talks on peace, reconstruction


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sought international support in Japan on Thursday to restore peace and prosperity in his country, torn by extremism.

Al-Abadi co-hosted a meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss ways to improve public safety in Iraq while promoting the country's sustainable economic development.

Abe announced a 35 billion yen ($330 million) loan for irrigation projects in Iraq during talks with al-Abadi later Thursday and pledged Japan's continuing support. The loan is part of Japan's $6 billion pledge to stabilize the Middle East, the source of 80 percent of its oil imports.

The conference was aimed at helping Iraq reconstruct by establishing a system to eliminate weapons held by many civilians. The goal is to create jobs, provide vocational training and motivate people to return to their ordinary lives, Japanese officials said.

The Iraqi government in December announced the end of its operations against the militants. But automatic rifles and other weapons are widespread in Iraq and have been used by Islamic extremists in recent years, officials said.

"We have fought the fight against terrorism with strong determination. Now we shift toward making the country safer and we are moving to an excellent level of development," al-Abadi told a joint news conference.

Iraqi officials cited unemployment among youth and other vulnerable groups as a potential source of violent extremism, and said organizing vocational training appropriate for the labor market is a challenge.

Japan hopes to contribute its expertise from a U.N.-led disarmament and demobilization project in Afghanistan that ended in 2006.

Officials from 30 countries and international organizations attended the conference.

"In order to improve public safety, development is essential and vice versa," Abe told the conference. "I propose international support for the Iraqi government's effort through a new approach that integrates security and development."

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