Japan studying possibility of building power plant in southern Iraq

Japan is considering a request from the Iraqi government to build a large scale power plant in the southern city of Samawah, where Japanese troops are currently based, the government's top spokesman said Wednesday.

Tokyo has yet to make a final decision, however, given security concerns and whether there is an appropriate site for such a facility, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters.

"If we were to build a large scale power plant, a fair number of engineers would have to go there and be able to engage in construction work without casualties. That poses a difficulty in Iraq as a whole right now," Hosoda said.

At present, about 550 Japanese soldiers are based near Samawah on a humanitarian mission providing medical assistance and repairing roads and schools.

Yet public opposition to that deployment remains strong amid concerns about the troops' safety and the mission's legitimacy under Japan's pacifist constitution. The government maintains that the region is relatively stable.

Kyodo News agency, citing government sources, said that there are plans to start construction work this summer on a US$100 million (Ђ79.14 million), 60-megawatt thermal power plant that would begin operation by mid-2007.

Two research mission have already been sent to the area twice, and Japan has conveyed its readiness to engage in the project to the local provincial government of Muthana, Kyodo said.


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