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Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi on Africa visit

By Staff
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ADDIS ABABA, Apr 30 (Reuters) Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi kicked off a visit to Africa in Ethiopia today, seeking closer ties with the world's poorest continent and to boost Tokyo's global influence.

Koizumi is visiting two African countries -- Ethiopia and Ghana -- before ending his tour in Sweden.

In Ethiopia he met Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Sunday. He scheduled to hold talks with the head of the Addis Ababa-based African Union Alpha Oumar Konare and address African diplomats tomorrow.

Japan says it ranks as the fourth leading donor for Africa globally after France, the United States and Germany.

It is seeking to woo Africa's support on its bid to win a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and Koizumi said, if successful, Japan would use its position to bolster world peace.

''Japan is not a nuclear power and has no intention of being one. Japan does not use force to settle disputes. If elected to the U.N. Security Council, Japan will become a leader in the international effort to enhance peace throughout the world,'' Koizumi said at a joint news conference with Ethiopia's Meles.

Meles said Ethiopia supported Japan's bid but added that Africa as a continent also wanted to have two permanent seats with veto powers and three non-permanent seats.

''We do not think that the second largest economy in the world, should not have permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council,'' Meles said.

Koizumi said Japan was committed to its promise to sharply increase its financial assistance to Africa and called on the international community to help the continent tackle poverty.

''Japan wishes to continue its cooperation so that African countries can develop their economies and stand on their feet,'' Koizumi said. He is set to address African Union diplomats in Addis Ababa tomorrow.

REUTERS CH KP1740

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