Japan undecided on how long to extend Afghan mission, official says

Japan's government has not yet decided whether to extend its mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan by one or two years, a top official said Friday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the Cabinet would decide next week before submitting legislation to Parliament, which convenes next Wednesday.

The legislation for Japan's mission expires Nov. 1.

"We are looking to extend our mission to provide oil and water around Afghanistan. We see this as a necessary anti-terrorism measure," Hosoda told reporters.

"But whether the law should be extended for one year or two years must be carefully debated," he added.

Japan's navy has provided fuel for coalition warships in the region since November 2001 under a special law that was last extended in 2003.

Japanese Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono said earlier this month that Japan was considering pulling out its warships from the Indian Ocean amid criticism that Japan is running a "free gasoline station."

Yu Kameoka, a spokesman for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said a final decision on the dispatch would not be made until Koizumi returns from a trip to New York over the weekend, AP reported.

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