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Japan to Help Soviets Cope With Food Shortages, Offers Loans and Other Aid

<i> Reuters</i>

Japan added its support Tuesday to the worldwide effort to help the Soviet Union cope with widespread food shortages, saying it will extend $100 million in loans.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the loans will be made through the Export-Import Bank of Japan.

Japan will also offer $3.75 million in food aid and additional medical aid for Moscow through international organizations including the Red Cross, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

A second Foreign Ministry official said that such aid does not mean a change in government policy because it will be for humanitarian reasons.

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The European Community gave the green light over the weekend for aid totaling more than $1 billion to help alleviate Soviet food shortages, adding to substantial aid and loans from Germany, the United States and other countries.

The EC on Tuesday said it hopes the first emergency food and medical aid will reach the Soviet Union before New Year’s Day. An EC delegation will leave for Moscow today to determine the country’s most urgent needs, a spokesman said.

Diplomats said Japan had come under pressure to give food aid because so many of its allies have a common interest in keeping Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in power. Gorbachev is due to make the first visit to Japan by a Soviet head of state in April.

Japan has refused to extend direct economic aid to the Soviet Union before the conclusion of a peace treaty, which has been blocked by a territorial dispute over four northern islands seized by Moscow at the end of World War II.

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