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Japan's Abe stakes all on Afghan mission
Sydney, September 8, 2007 (AFP): Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hinted in unusually strong language Saturday that failure to secure extension of Japan's military support role for US troops in Afghanistan could cost him his job.
With the opposition controlling the upper house of parliament and his own government beleaguered by a series of cabinet scandals, Abe is under intense pressure before a crucial vote on whether to extend the mandate.
The opposition is against the mission, in which Japanese ships help refuel jets operating in Afghanistan, but the United States has warned that pulling out would damage relations between the long-standing allies.
"Continuing fuel supplies is Japan's responsibility to the international community. We really have to carry it out," Abe told reporters after a meeting with US President George W. Bush on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit here.
"This is not just a promise to the United States, but an international promise. Therefore, my responsibility is grave," Abe said.
"To fulfil the promise, I have to use all of my force."
Although his words were unusually strong, Abe stopped short of suggesting any concrete steps such as resigning or dissolving parliament if his ruling coalition fails to win over the opposition.
Japan, which is officially pacifist, provides the logistical support under legislation enacted after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States which allows participation in the US-led "war on terror."
The Indian Ocean mission is unpopular, however, and Abe's coalition is not certain to be able to renew the mandate when the laws expire November 1.
His coalition still controls the more powerful lower house of parliament, but theoretically the upper house could stall any legislation indefinitely.