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Japanese troops to Iraq by December

TOKYO, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Japan will dispatch an advance unit of troops to Iraq as early as December to support the rehabilitation of the country, the Japan Times reported Monday.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will outline the plan when U.S. President George W. Bush visits Tokyo Oct. 17, they said.

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The advance unit of 100 personnel will be sent to southern Iraq because the area is relatively secure and make preparations for the full deployment of Japanese troops.

The main deployment, which is likely to number between 600 and 700 personnel, will be involved in providing medical and water supplies, as well as improving the nation's infrastructure, the sources said.

The mission will last about two years, although the duration will depend on the security situation, as the Japanese wish to avoid combat areas, they said.

But the government relented under growing pressure from the United States to contribute troops as soon as possible.

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