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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi kept his cards close to his vest over the Iraq standoff Thursday, despite opposition leaders’ criticism of his support for a U.S.-backed U.N. resolution on the matter.

Koizumi held separate meetings with Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party of Japan, Ichiro Ozawa of the Liberal Party, Tetsuzo Fuwa of the Japanese Communist Party and Takako Doi of the Social Democratic Party at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence during the day.

During these talks, he kept his own counsel over whether he would support a military attack on Iraq without U.N. backing.

Speaking at a news conference, Ozawa quoted Koizumi as saying that Japan’s conduct in the event of a unilateral U.S. military offensive would be decided by “the atmosphere” of the time.

When asked about these comments later in the day, Koizumi denied implying that Japan would support such an attack.

Koizumi has repeatedly voiced support for the U.S.-backed resolution, stating that it is an effort to build an international coalition to pressure Iraq to disarm.

But he has eschewed the issue of whether he would support a war by skirting the fact that the resolution is aimed at authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

“There was nothing clear about what he said,” Kan told reporters after his meeting with the prime minister. “We asked what Japan would do if the U.S.-backed resolution is voted down, but the prime minister just said he will decide on his stance when it happens.”

Opposition parties have stated that Japan should not support the U.S. line. They have instead advocated a French proposal aimed at giving weapons inspectors more time to effect a peaceful disarmament process.

According to Fuwa, Koizumi admitted that supporting the U.S.-backed resolution means that Japan supports terminating the inspection process on the March 17 deadline.

” ‘That means a war,’ I said, but he made no response to that,” Fuwa told reporters. “Calling the resolution ‘pressure for a peaceful solution’ (to the Iraq issue) is a lie. It’s a deception.”

Doi urged Koizumi to hold a Diet plenary session Friday to explain Japan’s stance to the public.

“He said he would consider it, but seemed negative about it,” she said.

Information from Kyodo added.

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