• Kyodo

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Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari asked Japan on Wednesday to extend the Self-Defense Forces reconstruction mission in Iraq beyond the current deadline of mid-December, according to a Japanese official.

In a meeting with Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, held on the sidelines of U.N. meetings here, Zebari voiced hope that he could visit Japan soon to express his appreciation to the Japanese government and people for their help in rebuilding Iraq.

Machimura thanked Iraq for supporting Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and asked for continued cooperation in maintaining the momentum for UNSC reform.

Zebari assured him that Iraq remains steadfast in backing Tokyo’s position.

Regarding the dispatch Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Samawah, Zebari cited a letter he had previously sent to Machimura asking for an extension of the SDF’s activities in the southern Iraqi city. He urged Japan to consider the request positively, the official said.

Machimura responded that Japan will closely observe how the political process in Iraq develops, the state of the country’s reconstruction and international trends in determining whether to keep the SDF units in and around Iraq beyond Dec. 14.

The Iraqi foreign minister said the coming two to three months are “very important” for the future of Iraq, the official said.

A referendum will be held Oct. 15 on the approval of a new constitution for Iraq, with a full-fledged Iraqi government expected to be established in late December.

Tokyo plans to start consultations on a possible extension of SDF humanitarian work in Iraq for one year from the Dec. 14 deadline, with a view to pulling the troops out before next summer.

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Yoshinori Katori issued a statement early Thursday expressing outrage over the series of terrorist acts in the Iraqi capital and condemning all forms of terrorism.

Bill ups MSDF mission

The Liberal Democratic Party plans to present a bill in the upcoming special Diet session to extend a counterterrorism law that expires Nov. 1, LDP Diet affairs chief Hidenao Nakagawa said Thursday, according to lawmakers.

Under the law, the Maritime Self-Defense Force gives free fuel to naval vessels from the United States and other countries engaged in counterterrorism in the Arabian Sea. As of late August, Japan had given away 407,000 kiloliters of fuel worth 16 billion yen to vessels from 11 countries.

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