Japan extends Afghan mission by one year

Japan's security council headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi approved legislation to extend by one year the country's mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan, officials affirmed Monday.

Japan's navy has provided fuel for coalition warships in the region since November 2001 under a special anti-terrorism law that was to expire on Nov. 1. It had already been extended in 2003 for two years.

The security council decided to prolong the mission by only one year this time, the government said in a statement, without elaborating.

Officials have said the one-year limit would allow Japan to respond if the situation in Afghanistan changes.

The Cabinet is expected to endorse the bill Tuesday morning, said Yu Kameoka, a spokesman for Koizumi. The measure will then be sent to Parliament, where it is expected to pass as the ruling coalition - Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party and its ally New Komei Party - holds majorities in both houses.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, Japan's top government spokesman, said Monday the extension was necessary as threats of terror attacks continue.

It has also stationed 600 non-combat troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah on a humanitarian mission to purify water, rebuild schools, and other tasks under a special law passed in 2003.

That mission expires on Dec. 14, but the government hasn't decided whether to extend it. Koizumi has suggested Japan's efforts in Iraq aren't yet finished, the AP reports.

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