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Japan should consider having the Self-Defense Forces join a multinational force in Iraq if such a force is created under a U.S.-proposed U.N. resolution, a top official of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Sunday.

“Although it is called a multinational force, it is designed to maintain peace and stabilize security,” LDP Secretary General Shinzo Abe said on a TV Asahi program. “The SDF will not use force, but there must be something it can do.”

A senior leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, did not rule out Abe’s idea during an appearance on a different TV program.

The United States is pushing for a new U.N. Security Council resolution to have more countries send troops and contribute money for Iraq amid the worsening security situation there.

“There is room for us to consider (participation in a U.N. multinational force) if it is based on a request by a new transition government of the Iraqi people,” DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said on Fuji TV.

“Although work within the limits of the Constitution is our precondition, a dispatch of the SDF can be an option,” Okada said.

Abe said he believes the SDF can take an active part in the mission within the bounds of Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution “if it is for a U.N. peacekeeping force that is of a character different from military forces for combat.”

The SDF can rebuild roads, water systems and oil-refining facilities, and provide logistic support to U.S. forces in Iraq, among other activities, Abe said.

He said the extent to which SDF troops will be allowed to use weapons will be a “political decision.”

“They cannot use weapons to carry out their duties, but we have to discuss it,” he said. “A political decision is necessary.”

On the earlier Fuji TV show, however, Abe reiterated that the government should take time to examine the local situation carefully before sending the SDF to Iraq.

“It will be too demanding for SDF members if we hasten awkwardly,” he said. “We should carefully find out where the SDF can work” under a recently enacted law limiting its activities to “noncombat zones,” he said.

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