Japan is considering pledging several billion dollars in reconstruction aid for projects in Iraq that are running behind schedule due in part to the worsening security situation there, government sources said Saturday.

Despite its fiscal difficulties, Japan is prepared to make the pledge at an international conference of donors that is scheduled for late October in Madrid, the sources said.

Japan’s policy is to fully cooperate with the rebuilding of Iraq, part of a dual-pillar policy of financial contributions and dispatching the Self-Defense Forces to help with reconstruction work.

Because of the worsening security situation, however, it appears that the SDF will not be sent, under the terms of a recently passed law, in the near future.

The United States, which is leading efforts to rebuild Iraq, is expected to repeat its demand that Japan provide financial assistance for the time being, the sources said.

To add to the pressure on Tokyo, U.S. President George W. Bush is scheduled to visit Japan for talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in mid-October.

Bush will be en route to Thailand, where he and Koizumi will attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit.

In a recent TV address, Bush said he will soon submit to Congress a request for $87 billion to cover ongoing military and intelligence operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas in relation to the U.S. war on terrorism.

He also named Japan among countries that “should contribute” to efforts to promote freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan through funding and other forms of involvement in the campaigns.

A senior U.S. official has estimated that between $50 billion and $75 billion is necessary for immediate reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

“There is no question that the amount (for Iraq) will be far more than the $500 million (Japan) pledged during the donors meeting for reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan” in January last year, a senior official of the Foreign Ministry said.

Some in Tokyo fear the government may be pressured to give around $10 billion, close to the $13 billion it contributed during the 1991 Gulf War, as it takes more time to dispatch the SDF, according to the sources.

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