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Japan set to extend controversial Iraq mission

Tokyo was set to extend a controversial troop mission in Iraq as Japan’s defense chief assured Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi the environment was right for continuing the deployment.”I reported security is unpredictable but quite stable,” Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono said after briefing Koizumi about the situation in the southern Iraq town of Samawa where more than 550 Japanese troops are based. The mission expires on December 14 but Koizumi is widely expected to go for a one-year extension of the deployment, Japan’s first since World War II to a country where there is active fighting. Japanese media said the cabinet would approve the extension on Thursday, one day earlier than originally expected. Ono on Sunday became the first senior Japanese official to visit post-war Iraq. He paid a flying visit to Samawa, 250 kilometers (150 miles) south of Baghdad, in what opposition leaders blasted as a political stunt. He said Monday that all preparations were “in order” to extend the mission. Full Story

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