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Koizumi Asks Turkish PM for Help in Hostage Crisis

InternationalJapanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi asked Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday for help with Japan \'s hostage crisis in Iraq.

\"We are putting all our efforts into realizing the immediate release of the hostages,\" Koizumi told Erdogan, a foreign ministry official said. \"As for Turkey, I ask for any cooperation you can provide, including the provision of information.\"

The Turkish leader responded to Koizumi\'s appeal during the 50-minute meeting saying: \"I would not begrudge any cooperation that we can give.\"

Koizumi reminded his counterpart of the countries\' friendly relations, which were strengthened in 1985 when Turkey supplied a special plane to fly out 250 Japanese citizens caught in Tehran during the Iraq-Iran war.

Erdogan, whose four-day trip is his first to Japan as Turkish prime minister, also said he would like private Turkish and Japanese businesses to work together in the reconstruction of Iraq, and expressed government willingness to help with humanitarian aid.

Three Japanese hostages -- humanitarian volunteers Noriaki Imai, 18, and Nahoko Takato, 34, and 32-year-old photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama -- were abducted last week and are believed to be held in Fallujah west of Baghdad .

An armed group calling itself the \"Mujahedeen Brigades\" has threatened to kill the first of the captives at 1300 GMT Monday unless Japan withdraws its 550 troops from the southern Iraq town of Samawa.

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