77 percent of Japanese opposed to extending Iraqi mission

About 77 percent of Japanese are opposed to extending their country's humanitarian mission to Iraq, more than four times the 18 percent who support an extension, a newspaper poll published Monday said. The survey by the Mainichi Shimbun also found that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's approval rating had climbed 5 points from a previous poll conducted shortly before general elections last month, to 56 percent, despite recent reports that he intends to extend the Iraqi mission. Japan has about 550 non-combat troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah who are purifying water, rebuilding schools and conducting other humanitarian tasks as part of U.S.-led reconstruction efforts in the country. Japan's mission expires on Dec. 14, but the government has not formally announced a decision to extend it.

The percentage of those opposed to keeping Japan's troops in Iraq was up 15 points from last December, when the mission was last extended, while those for an extension fell 13 points, Mainichi said.

The newspaper also said that more than half of respondents opposed Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo war shrine that critics say glorifies Japan's militarist past, unchanged from a similar survey in July, reports the AP. I.L.

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