The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Japan to approve Iraq troop plan today

Tokyo, Dec. 8 (Reuters): Japan’s cabinet is likely to approve tomorrow a plan for the dispatch of troops to help rebuild Iraq, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, clearing the way for what could be Japan’s biggest overseas military mission since World War Two.

“We cannot allow Iraq to fall into confusion and we cannot give in to terrorism,” Koizumi said. “I don’t think that it is all right for Japan to do nothing. I think that not only financial assistance, but support by personnel — including the Self-Defence Forces (military) — is necessary,” he added.

“If discussions (with our coalition partner) go smoothly, I think a cabinet resolution will be possible tomorrow,” he said, referring to an expected meeting tomorrow with Takenori Kanzaki, head of his coalition partner, the New Komeito Party.

Koizumi is expected to give a news conference tomorrow explaining his justification for the controversial step, which comes after intense debate following the killing of two Japanese diplomats in Iraq late last month. Media have said Japan could eventually send more than 1,000 military personnel, although the basic plan was not expected to contain key details such as the timing and size of the dispatch.

The recent deaths of the two diplomats near Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit and growing attacks against non-US personnel in Iraq have intensified debate in Japan over whether to go ahead with deployment of troops there.

Even as the government prepared to sign off on the plan, the main Opposition Democratic Party launched a campaign against sending the troops to Iraq, and a fresh poll showed that only 17 per cent of voters were in favour of sending the military soon. Fifty-three per cent of those polled over the weekend by public broadcaster NHK said they would support a troop dispatch after peace and order were restored in Iraq, while 28 per cent said they opposed it under any circumstances.

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