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Japan's Abe pledges support for Mideast countries battling Islamic State

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signs a condolences book as he pays his respects for victims of the attack at the French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, during a visit to the French Ambassador's residence in Tokyo January 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

CAIRO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned on Saturday that the world would suffer an “immeasurable loss” if terrorism spreads in the Middle East and pledged about $200 million in non-military assistance for countries battling Islamic State.

The threat of Islamist militancy has come into sharp focus outside the Middle East after gunmen killed 17 people in three days of violence in Paris that began on Jan. 7 with an attack on the offices of a newspaper that had published satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad.

“Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable,” Abe said in Cairo at the start of a regional tour.

Highlighting his concern, he told a meeting of the Japan-Egypt Business Committee that Tokyo would provide non-military financial backing for countries fighting Islamic State.

The al-Qaeda breakaway group controls large parts of OPEC oil producer Iraq and neighbouring Syria, has declared a caliphate and wants to redraw the map of the Middle East, a region vital for Japan’s energy needs.

“I will pledge assistance of a total of about 200 million U.S. dollars for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on,” said Abe.

In addition to the $2.2 billion in assistance Japan pledged for the Middle East two years ago, Abe said his government would provide another $2.5 billion in non-military assistance in fields such as humanitarian assistance and infrastructure.

Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Pravin Char