Bush Phones Koizumi to Ask for Japanese Troops for Iraq

President Bush telephoned Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (search) on Friday to personally stump for Tokyo's support in reconstructing Iraq and Afghanistan.

The plea comes amid Japanese debate over whether to send troops to Iraq and whether to chip in with a reported $1 billion in reconstruction funding. Washington is eager to share the burden internationally.

Bush and Koizumi spoke for about 10 minutes, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.

Bush asked Koizumi for Japanese "cooperation" in rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, saying it would be of benefit to the entire world, a Foreign Ministry statement said. Koizumi pledged that Tokyo would continue its support.

The statement did not elaborate on whether specific requests or offers for help were made.

Bush also told Koizumi that he looks forward to meeting the prime minister while stopping in Japan on his way to Thailand next month for the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (search) summit, the Foreign Ministry said. Koizumi reportedly welcomed the visit.

The phone call comes as Washington searches for new international commitments of help in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier this week, U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker (search) met with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and discussed Japan's role in postwar Iraq.

Koizumi won lawmakers' approval in July to send Japan's military to help with reconstruction there, but plans for a dispatch have been put on hold over concerns about mounting casualties among peacekeepers.

The Japanese government has indicated it wants to finalize a timeframe for such a mission and agree on a framework for a financial contribution before an expected visit next month to Tokyo by Bush.

Bush also conveyed to Koizumi the importance of resolving an international dispute over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons programs through six-nation discussions. Koizumi said Japan would work closely with Washington on such talks, the Foreign Ministry said.