Friday, March 30, 2007

Japan extends air force mission over iraq

Japan's Cabinet OKs 2-Year Extension of Air Force Mission in Iraq After It Expires in July The Associated Press TOKYO - Japan's Cabinet approved a two-year extension of the country's air force mission in Iraq after it expires in July, the foreign minister announced Friday. Tokyo has been airlifting U.N. and coalition personnel and supplies into Baghdad and other Iraqi cities from nearby Kuwait since early last year as part of efforts to support Iraq's reconstruction. The mission had been set to end July 31."A two-year extension is necessary to continue stable airlifting support" because Iraq's reconstruction has not been completed, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said in a statement after Cabinet approved the plan."International society seeks support for Iraq's reconstruction and that (Japan's continuing support) also serves Japan's national interest," Aso said.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet hopes to get parliamentary approval of a bill for the extension by late June.Tokyo has backed the U.S.-led Iraq invasion and provided troops for a non-combat, humanitarian mission in the southern city of Samawah beginning in 2004. Japan withdrew the ground troops in July 2006, and has since expanded its Kuwait-based air operations. The Iraq mission is among Japan's steps to boost its international profile. In October it also approved a one-year extension of its Indian Ocean naval mission supporting the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan.

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