Source Pravda.Ru

Japan decides to extend its Afghan mission

Japan intends to extend its mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan for another year, the government spokesman said Wednesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the decision was made prior to a special session of Parliament to convene Wednesday afternoon. The current mission expires on Nov. 1. The government, a staunch supporter of American policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, had been discussing whether to extend the mission by one year or two.

Yu Kameoka, a spokesman for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said the government had not yet decided when to submit legislation to extend the mission. But the measure is expected to pass as the ruling coalition - Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party and its ally New Komei Party - holds majorities in both houses of Parliament.

Japan's navy has provided fuel for coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since November 2001 under a special law that was last extended in 2003. Japan has also stationed some 550 non-combat troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah.

Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono said earlier this month that Japan was considering pulling out its warships from the Indian Ocean amid criticism that Japan is running a "free gasoline station." He also said Parliament should discuss the matter as soon as possible after the country's Sept. 11 nationwide elections, AP reports.