Japan's upper house passes bill to end Iraq mission

Japan's opposition-ruled upper house voted Wednesday to end the country's air mission to Iraq, but the bill was expected to be overridden by the lower chamber of the divided parliament.

Japan's upper house passes bill to end Iraq mission
However, the bill was expected to be overridden by the lower chamber of the divided parliament.

Adding to the political heat, prosecutors arrested the former top bureaucrat of the defence ministry on bribery allegations in a growing scandal, which has touched a minister in Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's two-month-old cabinet.

The opposition has accused Fukuda and his conservative predecessors of blindly following the United States into Iraq and opposes Japan's Kuwait-based air mission, which flies goods and supplies into the war-torn country.

The upper house, where the opposition wrested control in July elections, voted 133 to 103 in a party-line vote to terminate the Iraq mission, which has been unpopular with the public.

The bill is nearly certain to be scrapped by the more powerful lower house, in which Fukuda's ruling coalition holds a comfortable majority.

Parliament voted before the summer election to continue the Iraq mission until July 2008. But legislation on a separate naval mission backing US-led operations in Afghanistan expired this month due to legislative deadlock.

After approving the Iraq mission, the upper house took up debate on a bill proposed by Fukuda's government to resume the naval mission, which provided fuel and other support on the Indian Ocean to coalition forces.

Fukuda pushed the legislation through the lower house before visiting the US earlier this month, but the prospects of the upper house passing it remain grim.

The opposition says its first priority is probing the mushrooming scandal over defence contracts. The upper house has summoned Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, who was formerly defence chief, to testify on the scandal next week.

Fukuda addressed the upper house Wednesday and promised to shake up the defence ministry.

"A problem has occurred that damages people's confidence and that is extremely regrettable," Fukuda said. "I believe the ministry needs comprehensive reform."

Prosecutors on Wednesday arrested Takemasa Moriya, formerly the top bureaucrat in the defence ministry, on allegations of accepting bribes.

They also raided Moriya's residence in Tokyo and arrested his wife, prosecutors said in a statement.

Moriya has admitted that a contractor treated him to fine dining, gifts and hundreds of golf trips but has denied giving any favours in exchange.

But Kyodo News said investigators believed he gave preferential treatment to two Japanese companies in military deals, including one involving the purchase of General Electric engines for an aircraft.

The opposition has argued for a shake-up in the defence ministry. It has also opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, saying they violate the pacifist post-World War II constitution.

Japan's then premier Junichiro Koizumi, citing the threat of weapons of mass destruction, was one of the staunchest backers of US President George W. Bush's decision to invade Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Koizumi took the landmark step of sending troops to Iraq, the first time since World War II that Japan has deployed its military to a country where fighting was under way.

Koizumi withdrew the troops before leaving office last year but maintained the air mission.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Kasım 2007, 15:26
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