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Friday, April 23, 2004

Heed the warnings or accept the consequences: Koizumi


Staff writer

Aid workers and journalists who ignore government warnings to not travel to dangerous areas should accept responsibility for the consequences, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Thursday.

But the government does not plan to draw up legislation to prohibit people from traveling where they choose, he said during a joint interview with The Japan Times and other newspapers. Members of his Liberal Democratic Party had suggested such a ban on the Japanese populace.

When three Japanese civilians were taken hostage by gunmen earlier this month in Iraq, politicians and media organizations criticized the trio for being reckless and venturing in a dangerous area after being warned not to. After their release April 15, many focused on the money and manpower expended to win the trio's release.

Two other hostages released Saturday by other gunmen in Iraq faced similar criticism.

"We can't force people to stop" traveling to whatever country they choose, Koizumi said. "But we'd like them to consider how much trouble (their actions) might cause a large number of people."

Asked about the case of the five former hostages, he said: "I don't think they can avoid being held responsible. But it's also important for the government to do what it can do" to come to the aid of Japanese nationals in trouble.

"Both are important."

He praised the U.S. military in Iraq for maintaining security there. He said no party, including the United Nations, France, Russia or the Iraqi people, wants the U.S. to leave Iraq.

The prime minister asked the public to cooperate with government efforts to prevent terrorist activities in Japan. The government is on high alert, he said, indicating members of the public may be subjected to security checks during the Golden Week holidays between late April and early May, when millions of people are expected to travel.



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