Japan wants NATO help in Afghanistan project.

Japan on Wednesday sought cooperation from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in a project to disarm former Afghan soldiers and return them to civilian life. Japan is participating in the project to disarm about 10,000 former Afghan soldiers but so far 6,200 of them have been disarmed.

Japan decided to seek NATO's cooperation because it commands the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan that is planning to expand its control over rural areas. Japan is the biggest contributor to the disarmament project, funding the majority of cost or about $3.5 million.

Japan is considering sending ground troops on a non-combat, humanitarian mission to Afghanistan where a US-led force continues operations to stamp out extremist militants, a report said Wednesday.

Tokyo wants to contribute to the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan ahead of the war-torn country's general elections scheduled for September, the major daily Yomiuri Shimbun said. "To support President (Hamid) Karzai who is trying to promote the democracy in Afghanistan, further assistance for the nation's recovery is needed," a government source was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Senior Japanese foreign and defence officials have been unofficially requested by the US government to dispatch Japanese ground troops, the report said.

[Source: Japan Today, 06May04 and Hi Pakistan, Tokio, 05May04]

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