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Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005

Panel OKs SDF's Iraq extension

But some members decry lack of debate on the issue


Staff writer

A key policy panel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party approved on Wednesday a one-year extension for the Ground Self-Defense Force's mission in Iraq.

The approval paves the way for an official government endorsement by the Cabinet on Thursday to extend the mission until Dec. 14, 2006.

According to the plan, the government will decide further Self-Defense Forces activities during the coming year based on progress in Iraq's political process, the security situation on the ground, development of reconstruction work, and the activities and composition of multinational forces, including British and Australian forces.

During a meeting of the joint LDP panel on defense, security and diplomacy, some members voiced opposition or doubt about the revised plan.

Upper House member Hirohide Uozumi said the government appears to be automatically extending the mission without thorough consideration, even though the law allowing the SDF deployment initially stipulated only a one-year mission. The law has already been extended once before.

Former Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba said the government should make it clear that Japan will decide to withdraw its troops based on the local security situation and other conditions in Iraq, and not when the British and Australian forces pull out.

The revised plan should not refer to the period of time when the troops may exit, Ishiba said, as this would send the wrong message to Iraq.

New Komeito, the LDP's coalition partner, also gave the green light Wednesday to the revised dispatch plan.

Meanwhile, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Japan has informed the United States that it will start withdrawing its troops in June and finish by the end of August.

"The activities of British and Australian forces and Samawah's SDF have been regarded as a set," the official said.



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