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Japan PM says no plan to pull troops from Iraq
Updated: 2004-04-09 10:57

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi arrives his official residence in Tokyo April 9, 2004. The kidnapping of three Japanese by an armed group in Iraq has put Koizumi in a tight spot as it is certain to fuel calls for a review of a controversial Japanese troop deployment there. [Reuters]
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said on Friday that Japan had no plan to withdraw its troops from Iraq despite the kidnapping of three Japanese civilians there and a threat to kill them if Japan's troops were not pulled out.

Asked whether he was considering withdrawing troops from Iraq, Koizumi told reporters: "No."

He said the most important thing was to ensure the safety of the three kidnapped Japanese and for them to be rescued.

A previously unknown Iraqi group released a video of the hostages on Thursday and vowed to "burn them alive" if Japanese troops did not leave Iraq within three days.

Nudged by the United States, Japan has sent about 550 ground troops to Samawa in southern Iraq on a non-combat mission to help rebuild the country.

Public opinion is sharply divided on the deployment, which critics say violates the pacifist constitution, and casualties could undermine support for the government ahead of Upper House elections in July.

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