SAMAWAH, Iraq (Kyodo) Japan has invited the mayor of Samawah and nine other local Iraqi officials for “local autonomy training” in Japan next week, the Foreign Ministry’s Samawah office said Thursday.

Ten political and administrative leaders from the area, including a member of the al-Muthanna Provincial Council, will arrive in Japan next Tuesday at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry for 11 days of training.

Japan has sent Iraqi medical staff and teachers from Iraq for training in the past, but this is the first time the government will host political and administrative leaders.

Tokyo’s goal is believed to be to show local officials that Japan intends to continue supporting the region even after it withdraws the Ground Self-Defense Force troops from Samawah, beginning later this spring, and to get their cooperation in the plan.

The 10 invitees, including the mayors of two municipalities near Samawah, city assembly members and aides to the governor, will have lectures and discussions at the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and its Local Autonomy College in Tachikawa, western Tokyo.

They will also pay a call to the Gifu Prefectural Government to get a look at the operation of a regional administration, according to the Foreign Ministry’s Samawah office.

The office said it hoped the Iraqi officials would be able to use what they learn to rebuild Iraq.

Up to 600 GSDF troops are deployed to Samawah, the capital of al-Muthanna, to help rebuild infrastructure under a special Japanese law that enables missions in noncombat areas in Iraq.