The top government spokesman said Monday that Japan plans to send a fact-finding team to Iraq to assess rebuilding the war-torn country.

There is already growing speculation that such a team may be dispatched this week.

The government wants to send a team to find ways to provide humanitarian aid to the war-torn country “as soon as possible,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters.

Government sources said Sunday that Japan plans to send a team to Iraq as early as this week after the dispatch was postponed due to deteriorating security there.

The Japanese government has concluded it needs to conduct proactive aid swiftly to help Iraqi people establish their own government due to an expected delay in the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces troops. Any SDF dispatch is unlikely to take place this year due to incidents such as the Aug. 19 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, the sources said.

The government is also hoping that sending the fact-finding delegation will show its will to cooperate with the international community on Iraq’s reconstruction and that Japan places emphasis on its relations with the United States, they said.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage reportedly urged Japan earlier not to “walk away” from supporting the reconstruction.

Because of the war-renouncing Constitution, the Diet had to pass a special law in late July to permit Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to dispatch SDF personnel to Iraq.

The first dispatch had been expected as early as this fall, but many government officials are now taking a more cautious line after the U.N. office bombing.

The delegation will be formed by officials from organizations including the Defense Agency, the Foreign Ministry and the Cabinet Secretariat.

“Rather than (assessing the situation) for the dispatch of the SDF, the team will try to find out what kind of aid is possible,” a government source said.

The investigations will be limited due to the deteriorating security situation there, the source said.

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