Japan loans $29 million for Iraq reconstruction

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso came to Baghdad on a surprise visit Thursday, bringing with him a 3.5 billion yen (US$29 million) loan to jump-start Iraq's economic development. Aso, who is the first Japanese minister to visit the Iraqi capital since the US-led invasion in 2003, said his country will continue to support Iraq's reconstruction despite pulling out its troops. Japan had based 600 non-combat troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah for 2 1/2 years until their withdrawal last month. The Japanese government is "offering its help in several ways such as giving soft loans in Japanese yen with the value of 3.5 billion yen to improve the infrastructure and economic activities," Aso said, speaking through an Arabic interpreter.