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The government has been deflecting a growing amount of criticism, even from within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, since it came out in clear support of adopting a new resolution against Iraq at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, however, told a news conference Friday morning that Japan’s speech at the Security Council did not indicate support of a U.S.-led military offensive against Iraq.

“Adopting a new resolution means that the international community will speak in one voice,” said a visibly irritated Fukuda when asked about criticism that has arisen within the LDP. “We are not saying we support a military strike.

“We have been working to promote a unified international community that will make Iraq abandon its weapons of mass destruction. I don’t think (the LDP lawmakers) understand this point.”

Fukuda, however, skirted the point that a new resolution, expected to be proposed by the United States and Britain as early as next week, would be designed to give U.N. authorization for the use of force against Iraq.

On Thursday, Shizuka Kamei, a former LDP policy chief, lashed out against the speech given by Ambassador to the U.N. Koichi Haraguchi, saying it gave premature support for the U.S. position.

“Telling other countries to support the U.S. stance is a backdoor strategy. (Japan) should advise the U.S to exhaust all other options before resorting to the use of force,” Kamei, one of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s most vocal critics within the LDP, reportedly said at a meeting of his party faction.

Other veteran LDP politicians, including Mitsuo Horiuchi, chairman of the party’s Executive Council, also expressed concern over the speech. “Do we need to publicly say such a thing at this stage?” Horiuchi asked, adding that diplomatic efforts should be furthered before Japan states its position.

The government has doggedly avoided taking a stance on a U.S.-led attack on Iraq, apparently waiting to give its support at a time when Washington would express the most gratitude, a feather in the cap for Japanese diplomacy.

But its position is ostensibly known and it has failed to garner support from many other countries.

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