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About 55 percent of respondents in a Kyodo News poll conducted Saturday and Sunday said the Self-Defense Forces should withdraw from Iraq by March, when Dutch troops engaged in security operations are scheduled to leave the country.

According to the telephone survey, which covered 1,491 households with 1,056 people responding, 34.5 percent said the troops should withdraw immediately after Iraq holds parliamentary elections Jan. 30. Almost 21 percent said the SDF should pull out along with the Dutch troops, who are set to leave Iraq by March 15.

The survey results may indicate that the public is becoming more concerned about the unstable security situation in Iraq as U.S. troops there have been targeted by militants and the Ground Self-Defense Force camp in Samawah has come under a series of rocket and mortar attacks.

According to the survey, 25.6 percent said the SDF should withdraw on Dec. 14, 2005, the expiry date for their current aid mission in and around Iraq.

The government extended the initial mission for another year beyond Dec. 14, 2004. Roughly 600 GSDF troops have deployed in Samawah on a rotational basis to assist in reconstruction efforts.

Eleven percent called for the withdrawal of the troops “six months after (last December’s) renewal of the mission.”

Those who supported the SDF’s deployment in Iraq stood at 38.3 percent, while 55.7 percent expressed opposition.

In the event that any SDF troops deployed in Iraq are killed or injured, 65.2 percent said they should withdraw immediately, up 11.2 percentage points from a survey in February, while 31.0 percent, down 7.7 points, said they should stay.

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