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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Japan Cabinet OKs Shift in Troop Mission

June 18, 2004|From Associated Press

TOKYO — Japan's Cabinet today approved a plan for the country's troops now in Iraq on a humanitarian mission to remain as part of a multinational force after an interim government takes control there.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's pledge to let the military join other countries' forces in Iraq has divided the public at home.

The Cabinet's decision would let more than 500 Japanese soldiers continue reconstruction work in southern Iraq, where they have been purifying water, rebuilding schools and providing other humanitarian support, Kyodo News agency said.

It would also mean that hundreds of other Japanese military personnel shipping supplies into Iraq from neighboring countries would remain as well, the news report said.

The U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution allowing a multinational force to remain in Iraq until 2006 to provide security after the transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government at month's end.

Koizumi has insisted that Japanese troops would stay out of combat roles when they become part of the multinational force.

Opposition lawmakers say Japanese soldiers in a multinational force would no longer operate under their own command and might be asked to engage in fighting.

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