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Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Opposition lambastes Koizumi over emphatic support for U.S. line


Staff writer

Opposition parties on Tuesday slammed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's emphatic support for the United States' ultimatum to Iraq, saying a peaceful solution to the crisis should be achieved through more U.N. inspections.

Naoto Kan, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, said Koizumi has failed to provide a convincing explanation for why he supports a U.S military attack on Iraq in the absence of a new U.N. resolution.

He also pointed out the suddenness with which the government has begun to argue that previous U.N. resolutions provide sufficient cover for the U.S. to wage war against the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Other opposition leaders expressed anger at the government's long-standing refusal to clearly state before the legislature its position regarding the increasingly likely U.S. war against Iraq.

What the parties have described as "light treatment" of events in the Diet continued Tuesday, with Koizumi meeting journalists to voice his support for Washington at 1 p.m, the same time a House of Representatives plenary session was scheduled to open.

The timing effectively prevented most Lower House members from listening live to the long-awaited statement by the prime minister, opposition lawmakers said.

"Everything (involving Koizumi's diplomacy) has been abnormal," charged Kan, adding that Koizumi refused to give clear answers about his government's position on the Iraq issue during meetings with opposition party leaders last week.

Earlier Tuesday, the DPJ submitted a resolution to the Diet calling for more inspections, as opposed to the use of force, to resolve the standoff.

The move is designed to drive a wedge between the ruling parties; coalition partner New Komeito had previously claimed a new U.N. resolution was necessary to justify any attack against Iraq.

Liberal Party Secretary General Hirohisa Fujii weighed into the debate by saying that supporting the war runs counter to efforts the world has made to increase international peace and security since World War II. He also questioned whether the prime minister understands world sentiment.

In another meeting, Kazuo Shii, leader of the Japanese Communist Party, said, "President (George W.) Bush could not even come up with a single reason to justify war, and Japan is about to become an accomplice to damaging world peace." Takako Doi, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said, "It is clear that (Bush's) decision violates the U.N. Charter and international law."

Later in the day, a group of 91 Diet members, comprising 85 opposition lawmakers and six independents, jointly drew up a letter urging Bush not to wage war and handed it over to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

The opposition lawmakers are from the DPJ, the SDP and the JCP.

They urged lawmakers from the ruling camp -- including New Komeito members -- to participate, but none responded, said an aide to SDP lawmaker Mizuho Fukushima, who organized the petition.

"An attack on Iraq that would kill many innocent civilians should never be condoned," the letter reads. "We sincerely request that the United States, a mature and responsible nation, continue to strive for the resolution of this issue calmly, through peaceful means."

Information from Kyodo added.



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