Iraq's foreign minister asked Japan's premier and its defense chief on Friday to extend Tokyo's deployment of about 600 troops to southern Iraq but was told a decision was still down the road. Hoshya Zebari, who arrived in Japan on Wednesday, petitioned Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in an afternoon meeting and made a similar request earlier in the day to Defense Chief Fukushiro Nukaga. "We have been assured by the prime minister... that Japan will continue its assistance and commitment to help the Iraqi people build a democratic form of government," Kyodo News agency quoted Zebari as telling reporters after his meeting. Zebari did not elaborate on what form that assistance would take. "He understands that it's a decision the Japanese government will make later," Koizumi spokesman Yu Kameoka said.