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Japan's Ruling Bloc Approves Iraq Mission Extension

Japan's ruling coalition approved Thursday a plan to extend the humanitarian mission by the Ground Self-Defense Force for one year.

The plan, however, leaves leeway for an earlier withdrawal depending on some conditions.

The cabinet is expected to give green light to the extension later Thursday.

About 600 Japanese troops are stationed in the southern city of Samawah. Their two-year-old presence there expires Dec. 14.

Under the plan, the troops could pull out depending on a series of conditions, including Iraq's political and reconstruction process and the local security situation.

The extension period would also take into consideration the activities of the multinational force, including the British and Australian troops that are protecting the Japanese force.

The Japanese government is trying to arrange to complete the pullout by the summer in line with the reported withdrawal in May by the British and Australian troops in charge of security in southern Iraq, Kyodo News reported, citing government sources.

The deployment is controversial in Japan, not only because it is regarded as a violation of the nation's pacifist constitution, but also the soldiers safety is at risk in view of the continuing attacks by the insurgents.

(Xinhua News Agency December 8, 2005)

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