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Report: Japan May Delay Iraq Withdrawal

March 11, 2006

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan may extend its humanitarian mission in Iraq beyond a reported May deadline because of the deteriorating security and political crisis there, a news report said Saturday.

The government has not announced when, or if, it will end its 600-strong humanitarian mission in the southern city of Samawah. But media reports have suggested Japanese troops may start to pull out as early as March and complete the process by late May.

Sankei newspaper said Saturday that Tokyo plans to drop the May withdrawal deadline, citing unnamed government sources. The report did not suggest an alternative date for it to complete the process.

The U.S. government has repeatedly asked Britain and Japan not to withdraw troops for the time being amid intensifying sectarian violence and political confusion in Iraq, the newspaper said.

Defense Agency officials were not available to comment Saturday.

In a letter to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro urged the leaders to form a new government soon, taking into account the ethnic and religious diversity of the nation, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Friday.

Koizumi said Japan will continue to provide support for Iraq, the ministry said.

Update hourly