The Democratic Party of Japan may consider discussing with the ruling coalition revisions to a government bill to allow the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces to help with the postwar reconstruction of Iraq, a senior DPJ official said Sunday.

“If (the Diet debate) gets boiled down to some extent and the basic conditions are met, it is possible to begin specific negotiations” on revising the bill, DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said on a morning Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) program.

But Okada asserted there would be “no room for discussions” if the ruling bloc refuses to accept the DPJ’s demand that any SDF dispatch first receive approval by the Diet. Okada said Japan must consider whether the Iraqi people actually need a dispatch of SDF personnel, and whether the proposed legislation would infringe upon Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution.

The bill, under discussion in the Diet, would allow the SDF to be dispatched to Iraq to help reconstruct the country in the wake of the U.S.-led war. Under current laws, Japan can send its forces to countries surrounding Iraq to provide humanitarian support.

Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said on the same TV program that it is “a matter of course” for the House of Representatives to pass the Iraq-aid bill by Friday.

Sending the SDF abroad is a sensitive issue due to constitutional constraints. Opposition parties other than the DPJ have raised objections to the bill, saying it would allow the SDF to take part in the military administration of the U.S. and British occupation forces in Iraq.

During the same program, Yamasaki discussed the prospect of another government-proposed bill that is aimed at extending by two years the validity of a 2001 temporary law enabling the dispatch of Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to support the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan.

If the bill is not approved during the current Diet session and is carried over to a legislative session in the fall, the political schedule will become very tight and make it difficult for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election, Yamasaki said.

The current four-year term of House of Representatives members runs through June 2004. Lawmakers are becoming jittery over when the prime minister will dissolve the chamber to hold a general election.

Kamei voices criticism

Shizuka Kamei, former policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, on Sunday criticized some senior LDP lawmakers who have stated that they may support Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s re-election as party chief if he changes his economic policies.

Appearing on a TV Asahi Sunday morning program, Kamei, one of Koizumi’s most vocal opponents, said it is “impossible” for the prime minister to change his mind because the basics of his policies have already been set by the government’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy.

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