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A government fact-finding mission headed Sunday to the Middle East to study ways to carry out the envisioned dispatch of Self-Defense Forces personnel to help rebuild Iraq.

The team of more than 10 officials from the Cabinet Secretariat, the Defense Agency and the Foreign Ministry departed from Narita airport two days ahead of the originally planned date, after the government decided to send the mission earlier after resolving security matters in coordination with the Iraqi Embassy in Tokyo.

The mission will first visit countries neighboring Iraq, including Kuwait and Qatar, and will also travel to Britain to gather information on the security and political situation in Iraq.

The mission is expected to arrive in Iraq around Sept. 22.

Based on the mission’s findings, the government will decide what kind of medical and other forms of assistance Japan will provide to Iraq and draw up a basic plan on the SDF dispatch, including the area of deployment.

Japan is considering sending SDF troops sometime next year, but the deployment has been stalled.