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Updated: 20-Jan-2004

SHAPE News Morning Update

20 January 2004

  • Japanese troops begin historic Iraq deployment
  • Germany to begin training Iraqi police in March


  • EU seeks Afghanistan conference to shore up support


  • Commander of the German army resigns


  • Japanese troops arrived in southern Iraq on Monday to begin Japan's most controversial and risky deployment since World War Two. An advance party of around 35 soldiers who will prepare the ground for the likely deployment of about 1,000 troops arrived at the Dutch military camp in Samawa at 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) after crossing the border from Kuwait eight hours earlier. The dispatch marks a historic shift away from Japan's purely defensive postwar security policy and poses a huge political risk for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose government could be rocked if, as many expect, casualties occur. Japanese public opinion is divided over Koizumi's decision to send troops to Iraq but he defended the dispatch in a speech prepared for the opening of a new session of parliament. The troops will be based in the mainly Shi'ite southern city of Samawa, where they will conduct reconstruction and humanitarian operations. A law enacted last July allows the troop dispatch, but in line with Japan's pacifist constitution, limits the military's activity to "non-combat zones", a murky concept in Iraq, which continues to see daily attacks on occupying troops. About 48 percent of respondents to a weekend poll by Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun said they opposed the dispatch, down from 55 percent in the previous poll in December. About 40 percent said they supported it, up from 34 percent. No member of Japan's military has fired a shot in combat or been killed in an overseas mission since World War Two, although Japanese forces have taken part in United Nations operations since a 1992 law made that possible. (Reuters 191828 GMT Jan 04)


  • Germany will begin a training course for Iraqi police in the United Arab Emirates in March, the German Interior Ministry said on Monday. A spokeswoman said Interior Minister Otto Schily signed an agreement in Jordan with representatives of Iraq and the United Arab Emirates for German federal police to begin training 154 Iraqi criminal police officers, initially in areas such as securing evidence and crime sites. She said France and Japan had also indicated that they would be prepared to help train the force, which is being rebuilt following the destruction of the security apparatus of former President Saddam Hussein. It has so far ruled out sending troops to aid the military coalition trying to restore and maintain order but Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said Germany may provide other assistance such as medical evacuation aircraft. (Reuters 191637 GMT Jan 04)


  • The European Union has called on the United Nations to hold a conference on Afghanistan to shore up the government as it swims against a rising tide of violence towards elections, a spokeswoman said on Monday. "It would be something in between a donors' conference and a political conference," said Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. "We see this as a way to revitalise the international community's engagement." U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been keen for a conference to regenerate support for a country whose political and economic transition is threatened by a resurgence of militia violence. Gallach said the conference, which would be organised by the United Nations, was likely to be held in March and - since the Bonn process is still under way - hosted by Germany. Gallach said that in addition to the political and economic situation, the international conference would also address the security situation, which has cast doubts over Afghanistan's ambitious plan to hold its first free presidential poll in June. (Reuters 191815 GMT Jan 04)


  • Germany's defense minister accepted Monday the resignation of the commander of the German army, or Bundeswehr, the ministry said in a statement. Maj. Gen. Gert Gudera asked to be relieved of his duties and Defense Minister Peter Struck accepted, the ministry said. No replacement for Gudera has been named. The ministry did not give any reason for Gudera's decision, but according to a report in the Tuesday edition of Die Welt, he spit with the ministry over plans to save up to -26 billion (US$3.3 billion) announced last week. Under the plan, the Bundeswehr will scale back an order of new navy helicopters, cancel plans to buy drones for the navy and defer an order of 10,000 unarmored military trucks. The latest plans are part of the German military's overhaul aimed at cutting costs and completing the switch from a Cold War bulwark against a Soviet attack to duties such as peacekeeping and intervening in crisis spots. Plans call for trimming troop strength by 30,000 to 250,000 over the next few years. Germany has some 10,000 troops deployed in missions abroad, notably in peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and the Balkans. (AP 191930 Jan 04)




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