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Apr 4, 2003 updated 08:26  
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U.S. hopes Japan would send minesweepers to Persian Gulf
WASHINGTON, April 3, Kyodo - U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage expressed hope Thursday that Japan would send military personnel, including minesweepers, to help in Iraq's post-war reconstruction efforts.

Armitage, speaking to reporters after a congressional hearing, said the strong public support from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the U.S. war efforts in Iraq has earned immense gratitude from U.S. President George W. Bush.

''The unbelievable, strong public support of Prime Minister Koizumi and his government to the United States, is something that President Bush and this administration, will never forget,'' Armitage said.

Armitage named two areas of post-war role the Bush administration hopes Japan would play in Iraq: the dispatch medical personnel and the dispatch of minesweepers to clear mines Iraq may have laid in the Persian Gulf.

''The offer of minesweepers after hostilities is very welcome,'' Armitage said.

Japanese minesweepers helped clear mines in the Persian Gulf after the end of the 1991 Gulf war.

Japanese medical assistance, Armitage said, ''would be extraordinary helpful in healing the wound'' in post-war Iraq.

The Japanese government is currently mulling a possible post-war role for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in Iraq.

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