Fukuda Cabinet seeks refueling extension

Sept. 19, 2008 at 12:52 AM

TOKYO, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who is set to leave office, and his Cabinet Friday endorsed a bill to extend the country's Indian Ocean refueling mission.

The temporary law, which permits Japanese vessels to refuel foreign vessels in the Indian Ocean in support of the U.S.-led fight against terrorism in and around Afghanistan, is set to expire on Jan. 15, 2009.

The new bill supported by the Fukuda Cabinet will extend it until January 2010 if approved by parliament.

However, as parliament is set to elect a new prime minister next week, the date for presenting the bill to lawmakers can be determined only by the new Cabinet, Kyodo news service reported, quoting officials.

The report said the bill's fate would remains uncertain as the new government may dissolve parliament and call for new elections. Additionally, Japan's main opposition parties, which control the upper house of parliament, do not support the refueling effort.

Defense Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi was quoted as saying Japan should continue the mission as it "needs to play a responsible role at a time when the international community is united and is cooperating to fight against terrorism."

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