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Japan may pull air troops out of Iraq

TOKYO, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The Japanese Defense Ministry said Thursday it may pull its military air personnel out of Iraq, citing the improved situation there.

Japanese air defense units are involved in airlifting efforts in support of the U.S.-led coalition forces.,

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If the pullout decision is executed, as expected, by year-end, it would mark Japan's complete withdrawal from Iraq as its ground troops returned home in 2006 after a two-year deployment for reconstruction work, Kyodo news service noted.

The latest announcement comes as a United Nations resolution on the deployment of multinational forces in Iraq is set to expire in December.

"The political and security situations have improved" in Iraq, Defense Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters, adding the Iraqi government has suggested it wants the downsizing of other countries' presence there.

Under a special Japanese law, the air defense force's presence in Iraq does not expire until July of next year.

Explaining the likelihood of an earlier pull out, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura was quoted as saying, "We recognized we have fulfilled the purposes" in the special law.

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