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Japan will start withdrawing its troops from Iraq in April and will officially announce the pullout next month, a news report quoting unidentified sources said Saturday.
Public opinion polls show the majority of Japanese oppose the mission, which has been criticized as a violation of the country's pacifist constitution. Many say the deployment has made Japan a target for terrorism.
The government will call a special Cabinet meeting in late March to formally approve the withdrawal of Japan's largest overseas military deployment since World War II, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported.
The withdrawal from war-torn Iraq will begin in April and all Japanese soldiers will have left by June, the report said.
Earlier reports suggested Japan's pullout could begin as early as March. The government hasn't announced when, or if, it will withdraw.
Defense officials couldn't be immediately reached Saturday to confirm the report.
A staunch supporter of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Japan dispatched 600 troops to the southern city of Samawah in 2004 to purify water and carry out other humanitarian tasks. The Cabinet approved an extension of that mission in December, authorizing soldiers to stay in Iraq through the end of the year.
The government has said it needs to consider the state of Iraq's reconstruction, the plans of other coalition partners, and the local safety conditions before deciding whether or when to withdraw the troops.
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