The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iraq troop tough talk and rethink in Asia

Seoul, Dec. 2 (Reuters): A fact-finding team recommended today that South Korea send more troops to Iraq but warned that they could become the target of militants fighting US-led occupation forces there.

In Japan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi insisted his government would send troops to help rebuild Iraq “at the right time”. But Thailand’s foreign minister said his country would consider pulling out its troops there if security deteriorated to a point where they could not work.

The South Korean parliamentary team, which returned from a nine-day fact-finding mission to Iraq last week, made its recommendation two days after two South Korean civilian workers were killed by gunmen in Iraq.

“Many experts shared the view that it would be desirable to form a group consisting of both combat and non-combat troops to carry out security operations as well as medical and engineering works together,” the team said in a report.

South Korea, a close ally of the US, already has 675 medical and engineering troops in Iraq but many South Koreans disagree with sending more and opposition has grown since a spate of attacks on foreign troops.

The team, which submitted its report to parliament, said sending more troops could trigger attacks. “The general perception of South Korea is favourable among Iraqi people, but we can not rule out the possibility that Korean soldiers may become targets of fresh attacks if additional troops are dispatched,” the team said in its report.

President Roh Moo-hyun pledged in October to send more troops to help US-led forces and the government reconfirmed its commitment yesterday after gunmen shot four Korean electrical workers — sub-contractors of a US firm — near ousted president Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

Koizumi, addressing a seminar in Tokyo, repeatedly stressed that the international community must stand firm.

“Terrorists have been launching attacks indiscriminately and certainly we are fighting against terrorists,” he said.

“If there are fields in which the Self-Defence Forces (military) can take an active part, Japan must send them.”

Japanese media reported today that ministerial approval could be delayed after the deaths of the Japanese diplomats.

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