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Afghan president vows to use Japan's aid money effectively to restore stability

TOKYO (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai promised Thursday to use Japanese aid effectively to restore peace and stability in his country, as he sought to allay Tokyo's concerns that its support may be wasted on his corrupt and faltering government.

Tokyo announced in November a five-year pledge of $5 billion to help the war-torn nation strengthen its police force as well as support agriculture and infrastructure projects. The Japanese have abandoned a refueling mission that supported troops in Afghanistan and now only offer humanitarian support.

Japan is one of Afghanistan's biggest donors, but there has been no indication additional aid will be forthcoming on Karzai's five-day visit. Instead, Karzai is seeking to convince Tokyo that his government will use money already promised well.

"I guarantee Mr. Prime Minister that Afghan people would do their best to have their money spent in Afghanistan for the best purposes of development and stability in Afghanistan," Karzai said in a joint news conference after holding talks with Japanese Prime Minster Naoto Kan, who took office earlier this month. Karzai is the first foreign leader to meet with Kan.

The comments came a day after Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada warned Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal that Kabul must tackle the problems of security, corruption and flagging public support "so that (Japanese) taxpayers' money is effectively used."

On Thursday, Karzai and Kan discussed the Afghan government's recent efforts to strengthen governance and improve security, as well as implementation of Japanese aid measures.

Kan said that Afghanistan is key to world peace and pledged Tokyo's continuing support. But he stressed the need for the Afghan government to improve security and fight corruption.

"I certainly hope that $5 billion would be used to benefit the Afghan people and the global peace, and I offered to continue our support to achieve the goal," Kan said.

Over the past nine years, billions in aid and the presence of international forces have failed to decisively turn the tide of the war, and the Afghan government continues to struggle to assert its authority over wide swaths of the country.

Widespread corruption in Karzai's administration is believed to have attracted Afghans into the insurgency.

Karzai met with Emperor Akihito earlier Thursday. He is also scheduled to speak at a seminar, pray at Hiroshima's peace park for the victims of the U.S. atomic bombing and visit Japan's ancient capital of Nara before leaving Sunday.