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Friday, Nov. 25, 2005

Zebari urges extension of GSDF deployment

Staff writer

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Thursday urged his Japanese counterpart, Taro Aso, to keep the Self-Defense Forces troops deployed to Samawah, a Foreign Ministry official said.

News photo
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is greeted by Foreign Minister Taro Aso during a luncheon after signing documents detailing Japan's forgiveness of about $6.1 billion in debt owed by Iraq.

"There will be a time when coalition forces, including the SDF, will end their stationing in Iraq," Zebari was quoted as saying by the official. "But now is a very important period of time and we need your continued involvement."

Japan has about 600 Ground Self-Defense Force troops in Samawah.

Iraq will hold a parliamentary election Dec. 15 that will lead the way to a new coalition government.

Zebari's remark came as Japan prepares to give the green light to extend the mission, which expires Dec. 14. Tokyo, however, is considering pulling the troops out in mid-2006.

Aso said the final decision will be based on Japan's international responsibilities and the progress on reconstruction in Iraq, the official said.

Earlier in the day, Zebari and Aso exchanged notes that will allow the government to write off $6.1 billion, or 80 percent, of the $7.3 billion Iraq owes Tokyo. The rest will be repaid over 23 years with a six-year deferment.

Japan's debt relief is based on an agreement in November 2004 by the Paris Club to write off Iraq's foreign debt.

Tokyo is the largest creditor in the 19-member club.

The agreement paves the way for Tokyo to resume loans of up to 3.5 billion yen to help rebuild Iraq, especially for large construction projects.

Aso also urged Zebari to take measures to resolve problems concerning outstanding debts to Japanese firms, the official said.

The Iraqi foreign minister said the government is currently negotiating with private creditors.

"The support from Japan via official development assistance, debt relief and SDF deployment is one of the largest" internationally, Aso was quoted as saying.

Zebari expressed gratitude for the SDF dispatch and said the people of Iraq will not forget Japan's efforts.

Zebari is on a four-day visit to Tokyo that started Wednesday. He met Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe later Thursday and is expected to meet with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday.

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The Japan Times

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