• Kyodo

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About 79 percent of residents in the southern Iraq province of al-Muthanna are satisfied with Japan’s 2 1/2-year reconstruction mission in Samawah, according to a Kyodo News poll.

The survey, released Tuesday, shows 78.7 percent of residents were satisfied with the work of the Ground Self-Defense Force troops, up 13.3 percentage points from the previous poll, done in January.

However, 18.9 percent said they were dissatisfied, with the largest number of them saying the GSDF mission was not large enough. Those who considered the GSDF to be part of the occupation forces was at 12.4 percent, exceeding 10.0 percent for the first time.

The survey, the fourth of its kind, was conducted June 22-29 after Tokyo announced June 20 it was pulling out the troops. A local newspaper conducted the survey of 1,000 al-Muthanna residents aged 18 or older for Kyodo News.

The poll found 74.5 percent of the respondents supported the GSDF’s deployment, down 11.5 percentage points from the first survey, conducted shortly before the mission began in January 2001.

On Friday, the first group of troops arrived in Kuwait as part of the withdrawal process.

The GSDF contingent is expected to complete the pullout from Iraq by month’s end.

Protected by the British and Australian forces, about 600 GSDF troops have been providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance since early 2004 under a special law enabling missions in “noncombat areas” of Iraq.

Japan is expanding the Air Self-Defense Force’s logistics support out of Kuwait for the U.N. and multinational forces in Iraq.

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