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Lubbers thanks Japanese premier for supporting world's refugees

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TOKYO, June 18 (UNHCR) -- UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers on Wednesday thanked Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for his country's strong support for UNHCR and the world's refugees.
"It was good to meet the prime minister because Japan is a leading humanitarian country whose investment in finding durable solutions for refugees contributes greatly to the world's peace and security," said Lubbers after a 35-minute meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi in Tokyo. "We are very grateful for that."

Japan is UNHCR's second largest donor country after the United States, contributing nearly $118 million in 2002. That was $26.6 million more than in 2001. Lubbers said he was particularly pleased that Japan's support has continued at a good level following the departure of his predecessor, former Japanese High Commissioner Sadako Ogata, at the end of 2000.

Ogata, who served 10 years as High Commissioner, remains a strong supporter of UNHCR. She and Lubbers are co-chairing a two-day international symposium on refugees in Africa on Thursday and Friday in Tokyo.

Lubbers also briefed the Japanese premier on UNHCR's repatriation and reintegration work in Afghanistan, where more than 1.5 million refugees went home last year. He told Prime Minister Koizumi that UNHCR was also preparing for the voluntary repatriation of thousands of Iraqi refugees when conditions are right for their return.

The High Commissioner also briefed the prime minister on his two-day mission to South Korea on Sunday and Monday.

Earlier Wednesday, the UN refugee agency chief also met with Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama, who briefed him on an ongoing review of Japan's asylum system, the first since the domestic law was established in 1982.

Lubbers also held talks with Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Tetsuro Yano; Director-General of Multilateral Cooperation Kaoru Ishikawa; Japan International Cooperation Agency President Takao Kawakami; and members of the League of Parliamentarians for UNHCR.