Iraqi prime minister to visit Japan

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari will visit Tokyo on Monday for talks on Japanese support for his country's reconstruction, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Thursday. Jafari, making his first visit to Japan, will meet with Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi to discuss the role of Japanese non-combat military personnel in Iraq and Japan-Iraq relations, the ministry said. Japan is expected to decide soon the details of extending its military deployment in Iraq when the current mission expires Dec. 14.

Japan's Kyodo News service reported Wednesday that Koizumi's Cabinet would decide on Dec. 8 to allow the troops to stay for an additional year, but that the government still could decide later to withdraw the troops around May.

Japan has about 600 non-combat troops based in Samawah who are rebuilding schools, purifying water and conducting other humanitarian work. Japan's pacifist constitution bans the use of force in solving international disputes.

Koizumi was a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and went ahead with the dispatch last year despite public opposition and concerns about the safety of Japanese troops.

The dispatch has since grown increasingly unpopular in Japan. A poll published in the national Asahi newspaper earlier this week showed 69 percent of respondents opposed extending the mission, up from 55 percent in a previous survey in January.

Support for the mission dropped to 22 percent from 33 percent, the newspaper said. No margin of error was provided, reports the AP. I.L.

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