Japan to fund Afghan infrastructure

TOKYO: Japan will fund a programme costing up to five billion dollars to help build roads and boost agriculture in conflict-torn Afghanistan, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has outlined the proposal, which would include water control and irrigation technology, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The five-year programme, starting next year, would also help provide job training for former Taliban with stipends of 100-200 dollars a month, while giving time with Japanese companies in Japan, the newspaper said.

Hatoyama plans to announce the initiative, which would be on top of existing financial support for Afghanistan, when US President Barack Obama visits Japan in mid-November, it said.

Hatoyama's centre-left government, which won a general election on August 30, has already told the United States it will end a naval refuelling mission that supports the war in Afghanistan.

Hatoyama has repeatedly said he planned for new, non-military support for Afghanistan such as job training for former Taliban as a possible alternative to the refuelling mission.

The Indian Ocean mission -- which began in December 2001 and was periodically renewed by Japan's previous, conservative government -- provides the US-led coalition with fuel and other logistical support.

Obama has invested much political capital in the promise to root out Islamic extremists from Afghanistan and is weighing a request from his own military to send more US troops there.

While in opposition, Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan briefly forced a halt to the mission through parliamentary manoeuvres, arguing that Japan -- officially pacifist since World War II -- should not abet "American wars."