A majority of people surveyed Wednesday by Kyodo News said they oppose extending the Ground Self-Defense Force troops’ humanitarian aid mission in Iraq beyond the Dec. 14 deadline.

Of the 1,022 randomly selected people responding to a telephone poll, 63.3 percent said the GSDF’s one-year mission in the southern Iraq city of Samawah should not be extended when it expires in December, while 30.6 percent replied that the mission should be extended.

Government leaders have earlier indicated that Japan plans to extend the mission unless the local security situation deteriorates.

Earlier this week, Tokyo confirmed that a rocket fired Sunday night at the GSDF camp in Samawah damaged a structure but did not explode. The incident marks the first time an enemy weapon has caused any damage since roughly 600 GSDF troops began their mission in January.

Among people who support Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, 47.5 percent said they back extending the GSDF mission, compared with 44.2 percent who opposed the extension.

But among supporters of the LDP’s ruling coalition partner, New Komeito, 49.8 percent opposed the extension of the GSDF mission, compared with 49.0 percent who supported an extension.

The poll was taken in the wake of the grisly beheading of Japanese hostage Shosei Koda by Islamic gunmen who had demanded the pullout of the GSDF troops from Iraq.

According to the survey, 58.6 percent of the respondents said it was appropriate for Koizumi to reject the demand by Koda’s captors, while 35.1 percent said the decision was inappropriate.

Also, 64.2 percent of the respondents said Koizumi should rethink his position of following the U.S. policy on Iraq, compared with 31.2 percent who said Japan should continue it.

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