Sunday, July 27, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Japan clears troops for Iraq

Tokyo, July 26
The Japanese Parliament has cleared a law to send troops to Iraq. Japan is an extremely close ally of the US and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had assured US President George W Bush of sending Japanese troops.

According to NDTV failure would have meant a huge loss of face for Koizumi, possibly forcing him to call a snap general election — something analysts doubted the opposition was prepared to risk.

“It is not just a good thing for Iraq but the Middle East region and world peace. It is also the start of a bright future for Japan,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said.

Fukuda said the government would decide the possible timing and size of a troop dispatch after conducting a thorough survey.

The government now faces the challenge of finding a role for its troops in Iraq that will be acceptable both to the USA and the electorate.

Koizumi has been determined to keep his promise to the USA to send troops to Iraq despite the fact that a recent poll showed that more than half of Japanese voters oppose the move.

Unnerved by mounting US casualties in Iraq, many Japanese are reluctant to see their troops, who have not fired weapons in combat since the end of World War II, put in danger.

Perhaps mindful of such concerns, Koizumi has said the bill would not make the dispatch of troops to Iraq mandatory.

Koizumi added that it would be necessary to carefully assess the local situation, and stressed that the SDF would not take part in combat activities and that they would only be sent to areas free of military conflict.

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA: Spain on Saturday waved off 455 troops from this northwestern Galician town, the soldiers heading for Iraq on a Hercules transport plane, airport authorities said.

The troops are an advance group of a total 1,300-strong Spanish contingent to serve in a multinational force in post-war Iraq.

SOFIA: The first 30 of 500 Bulgarian soldiers due to help rebuild Iraq left for West Asia on Saturday, the Defence Ministry said.

The men flew out from the southern town of Plovdiv on board three Ilyushin 76 planes headed for Kuwait, where they were due to prepare for the mission in Iraq, it said. — Agencies


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