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Japan PM says to look quickly at Afghan help

world Updated: Sep 25, 2009 12:11 IST

Japan's new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said on Thursday he would move quickly to find a way to provide support to Afghanistan as it is a top goal of US President Barack Obama.

"What (Obama) is most concerned about is health insurance at home and Afghanistan overseas," Hatoyama told reporters after attending the first day of the Group of 20 economic summit in Pittsburgh.

"I'm aware that the Afghan issue should come first," Hatoyama said. "Our coalition government needs to show a reasonable course on Afghanistan -- one of the two biggest subjects."

Obama has invested political capital into rooting out Islamic extremists from Afghanistan and is weighing a request from the military to send more US troops there.

Hatoyama, whose center-left party ended a half century of nearly uninterrupted conservative rule, has said he plans to end an Indian Ocean naval refueling mission that supports the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

But during a meeting with Obama on Wednesday, Hatoyama proposed new support for Afghanistan such as job training for former soldiers in the country as a possible alternative to the refueling mission.

Obama stopped short of responding to Hatoyama's proposal, only saying he was "grateful" for his thoughts, according to a Japanese government official.

While in opposition, his party briefly forced a halt to the naval mission through parliamentary maneuvers, arguing that Japan -- officially pacifist since World War II -- should not abet "American wars."

Hatoyama in the past has criticized "US-led globalism" and called for "more equal" ties between the United States and Japan, with some left-leaning members of his coalition pushing for a cut in the 47,000-strong US troop presence.