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CORRECTED: Afghan envoy hopes Japan will consider providing job opportunities.

TOKYO, Oct. 13 Kyodo

Afghan Ambassador to Japan Eklil Ahmad Hakimi on Tuesday expressed hope that Japan will consider offering vocational training and job opportunities as a package in working out its new assistance measures for Afghanistan.

While welcoming Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada's recent surprise visit to Kabul, during which he pledged to enhance assistance to Afghanistan, the ambassador did not directly comment on the impact of the planned termination of Japan's refueling mission in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around his country.

Instead, he told Kyodo News during an interview, ''The more important thing is that we are right now in a crucial stage of fighting against terrorism, and the unity of the international coalition is something that one should pay attention to.''

He also acknowledged that the refueling mission in the Indian Ocean has played ''a crucial role'' in the fight against terrorism, but showed understanding of pledges the ruling Democratic Party of Japan made ahead of the Aug. 30 House of Representatives election.

The DPJ did not stipulate in its election manifesto that it will withdraw the Maritime Self-Defense Force from the mission when a Japanese law authorizing it expires in January, but Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who doubles as DPJ leader, has said that he basically does not intend to extend the mission.

Okada also hinted to reporters on Monday in Pakistan, after his Afghanistan visit, that he believes the current circumstances would not allow an extension.

During his visit to Afghanistan on Sunday, Okada stressed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Japan will enhance contributions to Afghanistan that benefit the lives of the Afghan people and they agreed on the importance of enhancing vocational training as part of efforts to promote peace in the country.

Okada has earlier said there is a need to provide vocational training and income guarantees to prevent people in Afghanistan from turning to the Taliban, given that many people join because they have no other ways to support themselves.

''If you are talking about a vocational training center as a package, that while we are providing training, meanwhile, to provide job opportunities -- this is something that's very important,'' the ambassador said.

''So that would not only give some assurance for those that they will go through this process, but...this is kind of a guarantee for their job security,'' he said.

But he noted the need to conduct a survey or an assessment to find out what kind of job training would be needed.

Meanwhile, on whether Japan should take on the role of mediator for Afghanistan's peace process, the ambassador said Afghanistan welcomes moves by countries to work toward peace but the approach should be complementary to what the Afghan government has already done.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Oct 19, 2009
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