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The government is planning to dispatch civilians rather than Self-Defense Forces units to provide humanitarian assistance in Baghdad, government sources said Thursday.

These civilian workers, who will be dispatched by the end of the year, will comprise government officials, private-sector engineers and medical experts, the sources said.

The government will convene separate meetings of the Security Council of Japan and the Cabinet on Nov. 14 to endorse its basic plan, which will specify the areas of Iraq to which civilian and SDF teams will be dispatched.

The basic plan will be reported to a special Diet session scheduled to be convened after Sunday’s House of Representatives election.

Under the government plan, the civilian aid workers are expected to carry out duties in the areas of education and medical assistance. They will also be tasked with helping locals set up businesses in the city.

Although Baghdad is considered a dangerous area, the government hopes to send civilians to the Iraqi capital because there is high demand there for humanitarian assistance, the sources said.

If necessary, the government will ask U.S. and British forces to guard the civilians’ activities, they said.

As for SDF troops, the government may send them to Samawa in southern Iraq, a location considered relatively safe. It is thought that the troops would be direct targets for insurgent attacks in Baghdad.

However, some within the government believe the decision should be made after a further assessment of the security situation in Baghdad, and a final decision is unlikely to come before Sunday’s election.

Dispatch in works

BAGHDAD (Kyodo) Japan will send troops to Iraq as planned even though Japanese military personnel and diplomats may become targets of attack by Iraqi insurgents, a senior official said Wednesday.

Yukio Okamoto, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s top diplomatic adviser, told a news conference in a Baghdad hotel that the security situation in Iraq remains shaky.

“Unless Japan pulls all of its personnel from Iraq, it is inevitable that it could become a target of attack as a member of the international community,” said Okamoto, who is in Iraq to assess the security and political situations before Japanese troops are dispatched.

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