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Iraq wants Japan to provide financial and technical support aimed at rebuilding and developing its oil and gas production facilities, the head of Iraq’s interim Governing Council said Wednesday in Tokyo.

Mohammed Bahr Al-Ulloum told the Japan National Press Club through an interpreter that his country hopes soon to dispatch a delegation to Japan to discuss such measures.

He said discussions on a joint oil project in Iraq have already begun.

But at a separate news conference later in the day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said that while Japan is willing to extend various forms of support to Iraq, civilians and technical experts will be unable to go to the country until the local security situation improves.

Tokyo has pledged a total $5 billion in humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Iraq by the end of 2007, and has also sent Self-Defense Forces units to assist in rebuilding the nation.

“I hope the U.N. will be greatly involved in (Iraq’s) upcoming election,” Al-Ulloum said. “The people of Iraq have the right to elect (their representatives) and the elections hold great meaning for the people.”

The election is scheduled to be held at the end of this year or early next year.

“We want to make preparations for the election and keep to the schedule” for the transference of power to Iraqis, Governing Council member Naseer Chadirji told the same news conference.

Al-Ulloum said he hopes a multinational force will be formed to replace the U.S.-led troops currently in Iraq.

An Iraqi delegation comprising four members of the Governing Council and six ministers arrived Tuesday in Tokyo on a three-day visit.

Later Wednesday, delegation members met with Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba.

Rowsch Shaways, who accompanied Al-Ulloum in place of a council member representing the Kurds, told Ishiba that Iraq wants Japan to teach it how to build a military.

“The old military we had was hostile,” an agency official quoted Shaways as saying. “The new military must operate under strong civilian control.”

Ishiba said he will consider the proposal, the official said.

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