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Thursday, March 20, 2003

Iraq reconstruction bills could be in Diet by May


Staff writer

The government will submit a package of bills to help in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq to the Diet probably by early May, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Taku Yamasaki said Wednesday.

Japan's role in the aftermath of the much-anticipated war is expected to include providing Self-Defense Forces as part of multinational peacekeeping units in the event the United Nations dispatches such forces to Iraq, Yamasaki told reporters.

"It is generally believed that the war will end within one month," the LDP's No. 2 man said, explaining the probable timetable for the legislation. His comment came a day after U.S. President George W. Bush set a 48-hour deadline for Iraq leader Saddam Hussein to surrender or face war.

Yamasaki said that SDF missions in postwar Iraq will be nonmilitary operations involving transportation, medical care, dismantling of weapons of mass destruction and minesweeping in the Persian Gulf.

Although Yamasaki was quick to add that nothing concrete has yet been discussed by the ruling parties or the government on the details of the bills, emphasizing that he "has only mentioned possible roles for Japan generally," this is the first time a high-ranking member of the ruling coalition or the government has revealed details and the possible timing of reconstruction assistance bills, which are expected to be necessary for Japan to play an active role in rebuilding Iraq.

Yamasaki reiterated the government's position that Japan will not participate in missions against Iraq that involve the use of military force, emphasizing that the nation's role will be limited to postwar reconstruction.

When the conflict ends, Japan will make diplomatic efforts to encourage the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution on the reconstruction of Iraq, as it is desirable that the package of bills is based on such a resolution, Yamasaki added.

As for the financial burden that will come with reconstruction, Yamasaki said it is still too early to discuss whether a supplementary budget for fiscal 2003, which begins in April, will be needed to cover any extra outlays as information is not presently available on how much the work will cost.

He said that any supplementary budget, if necessary, would not be compiled during the current Diet session that continues until June, given the expected time lapse between the end of the fighting and the start of substantial postwar reconstruction work.



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