• Kyodo

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Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson offered on Friday his support of Japan’s troop dispatch to Iraq to help rebuild the country.

“I must say I have all reasons to give full support for the Japanese government and (its) contribution to establishing peace and to rebuild Iraq again,” Persson said during an interview with Kyodo News in the Swedish capital ahead of his visit to Japan that starts Monday.

Sweden had criticized the U.S.- and British-led war against Iraq as a violation of international law. But Persson said the international community now needs to move on.

“That is behind us,” he said. “We all had a clear position and expressed that, but that is behind us. Now we must look forward, go ahead.

“We have to give support to Iraqi people to find a solution where they can take responsibility for their own country. I think that Japan makes an important contribution in that process.”

Asked if Sweden will dispatch forces to Iraq, Persson said his country wants to take part in that process but it may be difficult because its forces are “heavily engaged” in various U.N. peacekeeping missions around the globe.

“It is a question of resources, not of international law or legitimacy,” he said. “So if we are asked, we will consider it carefully.”

Persson also commented on Japan’s efforts to obtain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. He said that while he is “strongly in favor of the Japanese position” to increase the number of permanent members because it is clear the five permanent members do not reflect the current geopolitical situation, there are other candidates to be considered, such as India, South Africa, Brazil, Germany and Egypt.

He said in addition to the issue of the number of permanent members, the needs of other countries have be considered.

“I also want to have a constructive response about how to treat the nonpermanent members and how to reflect small and medium-size countries’ interest in the Security Council,” Perron said.

These issues should be viewed “as a package,” he said.

Persson will be in Tokyo for two days as part of a swing through Asia.

It will be Persson’s first trip to Japan, and the first visit by a Swedish prime minister since April 1993.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Persson are expected to discuss bilateral and international issues, including assistance for Iraq’s reconstruction.

Persson initially planned to visit South and North Korea, but he said he may not have the opportunity to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Il because there are “some problems in (Kim’s) calendar.”

He held talks with Kim in 2001 when he visited Pyongyang as the chief representative of a European delegation.

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