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Allies Don’t Jump at Bush Call for Funds

September 8, 2003

TOKYO (AP) _ With doubts still deep, there was no rush from Washington’s foreign allies Monday to answer President Bush’s call for money to help fund his Iraq policy.

Japan, normally a quick backer of Washington, offered only a lukewarm response and other nations said they would like to see greater United Nations involvement in post-war Iraq first.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, busy kicking off a campaign for re-election as head of Japan’s ruling party, had no immediate response. One of his chief spokesmen expressed only a basic understanding of Bush’s call for Japan and Europe to chip in funds to help in the security and reconstruction effort in Iraq.

``It has always been the position of the Japanese government that it is willing to assist as well as contribute to humanitarian efforts,″ Koizumi spokesman Yu Kameoka told The Associated Press.

Like many foreign leaders, Koizumi has found it hard to support Bush.

Though he pushed through new legislation allowing Japan to send troops to help with reconstruction efforts, the public remains deeply divided over whether Tokyo should participate. The death of Japanese soldiers in Iraq would be a political disaster for Koizumi.

``I don’t think we need to send troops. There are legal limits to what the military can do, and it’s a dangerous place, anything could happen,″ said Yuko Yoshida, a 39-year-old part-time worker in Tokyo.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, in a radio interview Monday, applauded Bush for emphasizing that ``the job is not finished in Iraq.″

However, Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, already has ruled out sending peacekeepers to Iraq. Last week, Prime Minister John Howard said his government _ which had contributed 2,000 troops to the assault on Baghdad _ wouldn’t dispatch a peacekeeping force even if the U.N. Security Council approves new measures to back Washington.

India reiterated it will consider sending troops for stabilization operations in Iraq only if authorized by the United Nations.

Since Bush declared an end to major fighting in Iraq, more Americans have died than were killed during the war. The overall death count is 287 _ 149 since May 1.

The violence _ including four major bombings in a month _ have raised alarms about Bush’s handling of Iraq, both in the United States and among its foreign allies.

Questions about other key issues also remained.

In his speech, Bush avoided the failure to find weapons of mass destruction or to determine the whereabouts of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden.

The omissions left some foreign leaders unconvinced.

New Zealand would examine what it could do to provide further troops for Iraq ``if the U.N. were to step up its involvement,″ Prime Minister Helen Clark said.

While discussions on greater U.N. involvement are at an early stage, ``we support strengthening the United Nations role in Iraq. That has always been our position,″ she said.

But she added that with New Zealand already committed with teams of engineers and demining specialists in Iraq, and peacekeeping units in Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands, ``it’s unlikely that New Zealand could contemplate any large contribution.″

Greece is waiting for a U.N. Security Council resolution before making any decision on sending troops, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said.

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