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TOKYO (AP) _ Nissan Motor Co. has reached a deal to sell part of the site of a car assembly plant in western Tokyo for 73.9 billion yen ($574 million), a move that will help reduce its debt.

The Japanese automaker is selling land where the Murayama plant stands to a Buddhist religious organization called Shinnyo-en, the company said Tuesday.

Assembly operations at the plant ended in March 2001, and other operations, such as plating, are set to end by March 2003. The decontamination of the plant is scheduled to be complete by March 2004.

Shuttering the plant was among the cost-cutting turnaround strategies undertaken by Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's president and executive sent in by French partner Renault SA.

Renault raised its stake in Nissan this month to 44.4 percent from the previous 36.8 percent.

Nissan and the local municipal governments will talk over how to use the remaining area. The carmaker plans to use part of the site to set up an auto service and supplies retail mall.

With the new fiscal year starting in April, Nissan is embarking on a new three-year plan to increase annual sales by a million vehicles and eliminate debt by March 2005.

Nissan's debt totaled 799 billion yen ($6.2 billion) as of September. For the fiscal year ended in March 2001, Nissan sold 2.6 million vehicles worldwide, up 4 percent from a year earlier.