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Saturday, April 29, 2006

10th GSDF unit ordered to prepare for Iraq duty


Staff writer

Scrapping an earlier plan to withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of May, the Defense Agency issued an order Friday to form and dispatch the 10th Ground Self-Defense Force unit for the ongoing humanitarian and reconstruction mission in and around Samawah, southern Iraq.

Around 500 GSDF members, including medical staff, army engineers and soldiers to be on guard duty, will be sent to Samawah starting in early May to replace the ninth unit by early June, agency officials said. They will mainly be from the GSDF's Eastern Army 12th Brigade based in Gunma Prefecture.

A GSDF unit has been sent to Samawah every three months in a rotating deployment.

The ninth unit was dispatched with an eye toward a withdrawal starting in March and finishing in May. But Tokyo scrapped the idea as Iraqi parliamentary groups have failed to form a Cabinet despite a national election held in December.

The political process, however, has finally started showing clear signs of progress.

The designation of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite leader, as Iraq's prime minister on April 22, has been considered a major step for political reconciliation among parliamentary groups and the long-awaited formation of a Cabinet.

Al-Maliki told NHK Wednesday that said he hoped to form a government within two weeks.

Establishment of a stable, legitimate government in Iraq is one of the main conditions Tokyo cited for withdrawing the GSDF troops. The government is expected to decide when to withdraw after closely watching ongoing political developments in Iraq.

The SDF's mission under a special law for Iraq reconstruction was extended into its third year in December with the view of a possible pullout before the new deadline of December 2006.

ASDF airman busted

An Air Self-Defense Force member assigned to an air-defense missile unit has been arrested on suspicion of using methamphetamine stimulant drugs, police said Friday.

The police identified the man as Airman 1st class Yuuki Kuramochi, 22, assigned to the Patriot missile group headquartered in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture.

ASDF officers said the suspect has never been involved in the Patriot launching system.

Kuramochi, who was on vacation, allegedly used the drug at a budget hotel in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, on Tuesday. He called for an ambulance after he fell ill the following day, police said.



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