National

'No time' to explain Iraq decision: official

The government did not have enough time to explain the decision to join the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq, one reason behind the Liberal Democratic Party’s poor showing in the House of Councilors election, a top Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

Speaking at a regularly scheduled news conference, Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi said the government had sought to explain its position at a one-day special House of Representatives session that convened after the ordinary Diet session ended June 16.

“Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also explained (the dispatch) while stumping for the election and through exchanges with reporters,” Takeuchi said.

He added, however, that Sunday’s election result indicated disquiet among voters over the administration’s failure to make more time for Diet debate on whether the Self-Defense Forces should join the U.N.-sanctioned multinational force, he said.

At a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush on the sidelines of a Group of Eight summit last month, Koizumi promised that SDF troops would join the multinational force after power was transferred to an interim Iraqi government.

This pledge prompted criticism that he failed to take proper steps beforehand to debate the matter within the party and at the Diet.

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