RealNews

Japan set to extend Iraq deployment as key ally gives nod

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he wanted Japanese troops to stay in Iraq as a Buddhist party which gives him crucial coalition support backed extending the mission past December. “Members of the Self-Defense Forces are carrying out a mission appreciated by local residents. We want to continue these activities that are highly regarded by residents there,” Koizumi said in parliament. New Komeito, a pacifist party drawn from lay Buddhists, signalled it supported keeping troops in Iraq beyond December 14, when their one-year deployment is set to expire. “As far as I see there at present, I believe we are in a situation in which we can continue the deployment,” New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki told reporters. But a New Komeito spokesman said later the party was not giving blanket support. “Our official stance remains unchanged — the government should make a decision by examining the situation in Iraq up to the very last moment,” the spokesman told AFP. Some 550 troops are conducting non-combat operations in the southern city of Samawa in Japan’s first military deployment since World War II to a country of active combat. Japan passed special legislation declaring the military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to be in a “non-combat zone” so as not to violate its constitution which forbids the use of force.Full Story

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