Japan likely to help Iraq refugees, reconstruction

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will back the United States diplomatically in any war with Iraq but its practical help is likely to be confined to assisting refugees and post-war reconstruction, a ruling party executive said on Monday.

"Japan can make the most effective contribution in the post-war situation including in the reconstruction of Iraq," Fukushiro Nukaga, deputy secretary-general of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party and a former defence minister, told Reuters in an interview.

"Japan has great interest in the reconstruction of Iraq and in helping with refugees," he said.

Nukaga said Japan's alliance with the United States was more important than its relations with the United Nations when deciding Iraq policy.

"The ideal is for the United States and the U.N. to be in agreement... But if not, we have to put priority on the Japan-U.S. alliance," Nukaga said.

Japan gave its support on Saturday to a March 17 deadline for Iraq to disarm or face war, proposed by the United States, Britain and Spain.

Japan's pacifist constitution bans it from taking part in wars. It contributed $11 billion for the 1991 Gulf War but suffered diplomatic embarrassment for not sending troops.

Nukaga said the United States, happy to see Japan's support, was unlikely to ask it to shoulder the financial burden of any new war against Iraq.

"We have stated our backing, and to my knowledge, the U.S. will not ask us to foot the war bill," he said.

Japanese media reports have said the government was considering sending the military to the region to help refugees in a bid to show that it is contributing.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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