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Saturday, March 20, 2004

ONE YEAR LATER

Koizumi, Fukuda repeat Iraq resolve


Staff writer

One year after the start of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, top Japanese officials are determined to keep ground troops in Iraq despite growing fears of terrorist attacks both at home and abroad.

"I'm prepared for the reality that the fight against terrorism will take a long time," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters Friday, a day before the March 20 anniversary of the war's start.

Koizumi denied that doubts over the legitimacy of the U.S.-led war are growing even among countries that have stood by Washington.

"Without building a stable government in Iraq, the world won't see peace and stability," Koizumi said. "I think that's the consensus" shared by the international community, he added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said he still believes weapons of mass destruction may be found in Iraq, restating one of Japan's justifications for throwing its full support behind the war.

But the public doesn't seem to be buying the government's explanations. A poll conducted by the major daily Asahi Shimbun earlier this month found 66 percent of the respondents said the United States, which claimed that Iraq possessed WMDs, had no legitimate reason to attack Iraq, while 19 percent said it did.

Some world leaders remain unconvinced as well. Media reports quoted Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski as saying Thursday that his country was "misled" by information provided by the U.S. and its allies about Iraq's alleged possession of WMDs.

Both Fukuda and Koizumi declined comment on Kwasniewski's remark, saying the Japanese government had not confirmed exactly what the Polish president said.

But despite nagging doubts over the war's legitimacy, as well as heightened concern over the possibility of Japan becoming a target of terrorist attacks, public support for Koizumi's Cabinet remains relatively high.

The same Asahi poll showed 49 percent of respondents supported the Cabinet, while 32 percent did not. Compared with the daily's polls of previous Cabinets, the figures were relatively good for an administration in office for nearly three years.

Meanwhile, public support for the Self-Defense Forces dispatch to Iraq, which initially met strong opposition, has increased in recent months. Most media polls show the public is almost evenly split between those who support and oppose the deployment.



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The Japan Times

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