Relatives of the three Japanese civilians held captive in Iraq by apparent terrorists asked the government Friday to withdraw the Ground Self-Defense Force troops from Iraq in line with the kidnappers’ demand.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi promised the family members that Tokyo would do its utmost to rescue the abductees, but did not respond to the request that Japan withdraw its troops.

The family members arrived in Tokyo on Friday for meetings with government officials. They asked Kawaguchi why Japan cannot withdraw the GSDF troops to save the hostages, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

Eight members of the families of Noriaki Imai, Soichiro Koriyama and Nahoko Takato met Kawaguchi and Senior Vice Foreign Minister Masatoshi Abe for 50 minutes at the Foreign Ministry.

“I am sure you had a sleepless night in anguish,” Kawaguchi told the relatives. “The government will do whatever it can to rescue the hostages.”

She said the government is still gathering information and does not know who the kidnappers are. She promised to seek the earliest possible release of the hostages.

The relatives told reporters later in the day that they want to personally convey their request to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

They said they are ready to go on Iraqi TV to tell people there how the families of the hostages feel.

“I’m sure mothers in Iraq know how painful it is to lose their children in war,” said Kimiko Koriyama, 55-year-old mother of Soichiro Koriyama. “We want the media to convey our feelings to the people of Iraq.”

The Foreign Ministry told reporters that the government has been urging Japanese nationals to stay out of Iraq in order to avoid civilian casualties.

“The government has been issuing travel warnings to evacuate Iraq, (which) means that they were there on their own,” the Foreign Ministry official said. “It was very unfortunate that those three Japanese, who had no official mission to visit there, had entered Iraq.”

Naoko Imai, 51-year-old mother of Noriaki Imai, told a news conference: “Please do not give up on the three who went to Iraq to help people. We have only two days left.”

The video from the kidnappers broadcast Thursday contains a threat that the three will be burned alive unless Japan decides to withdraw the GSDF from Iraq.

“They have no hope of survival unless the SDF troops are withdrawn,” she said.

“I wish my son would somehow come back safely,” said Imai’s 54-year-old father, Takashi. “I urged the foreign minister to pull the GSDF from Iraq, but she only told us that she would relay the request” to the prime minister.

Shuichi Takato, the 33-year-old brother of Nahoko Takato, expressed irritation with the government. Kawaguchi “would not reply to our question why the SDF pullout will not be among the options to be taken and still say they are doing their utmost.”

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