Japan to Release $97 Million in Iraq Aid

Japan (search) said Tuesday it will disburse about 10 billion yen (US$97 million; euro71.71 million) in aid to help war-ravaged Iraq (search) fund public services and buy ambulances and police vehicles.

With that spending, Tokyo will exhaust all but US$100 million (euro73.5 million) of a total of US$1.5 billion (euro1.11 billion) in aid pledged for Iraq's reconstruction, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Shinichi Kadowaki.

Kadowaki said Tokyo's aid will enable Iraq's Health Ministry to buy 700 ambulances worth 5.83 billion yen (US$56.60 million; euro41.84 million). Iraq's Home Affairs Ministry plans to spend 2.62 billion yen (US $25.45 million; euro18.81 million) on 150 police buses and 500 police motorcycles, he said.

For southern Iraq's Muthana province, where about 550 Japanese non-combat troops are based for a humanitarian mission, Tokyo set aside 866 million yen (US$8.41 million; euro6.22 million) for medical equipment at 32 health clinics and 658 million yen (US $6.39 million; euro4.72 million) for garbage-collecting vehicles.

Japan's troops in Muthana' capital, Samawah, have been purifying water and rebuilding roads and schools since early this year.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's (search) Cabinet this month extended the mission for another year through Dec. 14, 2005.

Critics worry that Japanese troops could be drawn into fighting with insurgents, and say the mission violates Japan's constitution, which bans the country from using force to settle international disputes.

Opinion polls show that a majority of voters oppose the military dispatch to Iraq.