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Diplomats' bodies arrive in Tokyo

Koizumi: Japan will not run from terror

An honor guard drapes the national flag over a coffin.
An honor guard drapes the national flag over a coffin.

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TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- The bodies of two Japanese diplomats killed by gunmen in Iraq last week have arrived at Narita airport near Tokyo.

A Japanese honor guard saluted the coffins as they came off the plane, draping them with the national flag before carrying them past family members to hearses.

The men were the first Japanese casualties in Iraq since the war began in March, and they died as Tokyo debated Japan's involvement in the Middle Eastern nation.

Japan's government -- which has been criticized for supporting the U.S. war -- has vowed to stay in Iraq to help in the reconstruction effort despite the deaths.

Media reports said Thursday Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government would likely announce next week its arrangements for deploying troops to Iraq.

Plans to send more than 1,000 troops -- Japan's biggest overseas military deployment since World War Two -- were delayed last month after a bomb attack on an Italian military police headquarters in Iraq killed 19 Italians and 14 locals.

Gunned down

Katsuhiko Oku, 45, who worked for the Japanese Embassy in London, and Masamori Inoue, 30, who worked for the Japanese Embassy in Baghdad, were gunned down Saturday near the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit.

They were killed as they were traveling to a reconstruction conference near the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Their Iraqi driver was also killed in the attack.

The two slain Japanese diplomats will receive a state funeral in Tokyo on Saturday.

Koizumi called the killings an outrage, but added: "Japan has a responsibility to provide humanitarian and reconstruction aid in Iraq. There is no change to our policy of not giving in to terrorism."

Japan's embassy in Baghdad remains open and staffing has not been cut.

But the public is still against a Japanese presence in Iraq. A recent telephone opinion poll showed only nine percent of Japanese supported the government's plan to dispatch troops to Iraq.


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