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Karzai Welcomes Possible Japanese Investment In Minerals

Afghan President Hamid Karzai delivers a speech during a seminar hosted by the Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo on June 18.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he welcomes investments from Japan to tap Afghanistan's mineral wealth.

Karzai is on an official visit to Japan, which has been a major donor to Afghanistan since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban.

"Morally, Afghanistan should give access as a priority to those countries that have helped Afghanistan massively in the past few years. So if Japan came to Afghanistan with nearly $6.5 billion of assistance and very selflessly, then it falls on Afghanistan to reciprocate," Karzai told a forum in Tokyo. "And what do we have to reciprocate with? It's this opportunity of mineral resources that we must return to the good will of the Japanese people by giving Japan the priority to come and explore and extract."

Geologists have known for decades about Afghanistan's vast deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, and gold.

The U.S. Department of Defense this week put a nearly $1 trillion price tag on the reserves, but Afghan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani has called that a conservative estimate and suggested the real figure could be three times that.

On June 17, Karzai promised Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to use Japanese aid to restore peace and stability.

The Japanese government has voiced concerns that aid it is sending to Afghanistan may be wasted on a corrupt and faltering government.

compiled from agency reports