Japan balks at drafting new law to help rebuild Iraq

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Japan will consider drafting a new law on Iraq’s reconstruction only after gauging the situation in the country and a United Nations resolution backing reconstruction efforts is issued, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Wednesday.

In a daily meeting with reporters, Koizumi reiterated his stance that Japan will first do what it can under current laws.

“If we must make a new law, then we will consider doing so after studying the situation,” he said.

Possible new legislation would allow the dispatch of Self Defense Forces elements to Iraq to engage in such reconstruction work as transporting relief materials and rebuilding destroyed infrastructure.

Although the government is believed to be already working on a draft bill, it is also measuring the timing of its submission to the Diet.

A U.N. resolution authorizing international reconstruction efforts would be considered by the government as a prerequisite. One such resolution is currently in the works.

Security concerns in Iraq are also prompting the government to hold back on the bill.

Koizumi’s remarks were prompted by the Wednesday morning edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun, which reported that the government plans to submit a bill on Iraq’s reconstruction during the current Diet session, thereby extending the session beyond its June 18 close.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda flatly denied the report, saying, “Nothing has been decided by the government at the moment.”

However, Fukuda did say the course of the U.N. resolution will be a key factor in drafting the new law. The U.N. Security Council resolution, submitted earlier this month by the United States, Britain and Spain, is expected to be passed as early as this month.

Iraq’s reconstruction will be one of the key agenda items in Koizumi’s meeting with Bush on Thursday and Friday at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.

But Fukuda denied that Koizumi will specifically mention sending SDF troops under a new law during the Texas talks. “Iraq will of course be an agenda item, but I doubt it would be a circumstance to talk about making a new law.”

Koizumi also said any new law would be a “domestic matter.” He also denied plans to extend the Diet session, reiterating his earlier remarks that all pending bills should clear the Diet by the end of the current session.

More Iraq aid allocated

Japan has decided to allocate some $46 million to help restore Iraq’s infrastructure and provide its people with jobs and education, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Wednesday.

Of the maximum $100 million that the government is set to offer Iraq, the Foreign Ministry had earlier unveiled plans for the use of about $32 million.

Until Wednesday, Japan had not decided how to spend the remaining $68 million.

According to Wednesday’s announcement, about $6 million will be offered to a U.N. Development Program aimed at creating jobs in Baghdad.

These jobs could entail the removal of war-related rubble or the rebuilding of damaged facilities.

Japan will provide some $10 million to UNICEF for the rebuilding of schools and the purchase of school supplies, Kawaguchi said.

Some $30 million will be spent on projects planned by various international organizations to rebuild hospitals, public facilities and power distribution stations.