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South Korea to Send Troops, Financial Support to Iraq

South Korea is going to send more troops to Iraq and is pledging $200 million in aid to help rebuild the country. The size of the troop deployment and what role the soldiers will play is still unclear.

A spokesman in the presidential Blue House on Saturday said South Korea will send additional soldiers to Iraq.

Spokesman Yoon Tai-Young said the government took into consideration the national interest, relations with the United States and the recent passage of a U.N. resolution authorizing a multinational force in Iraq.

Seoul, earlier this year, sent 675 non-combat troops, including army engineers and medics, to Iraq. Washington has reportedly asked South Korea to contribute 5,000 troops.

A South Korean government spokesman says the country will give $200 million in aid to Iraq over the next four years in addition to $60 million previously pledged.

President Roh Moo-hyun, whose presidency is mired in scandal and controversy, said he wants to test public opinion on more troop dispatches.

The U.S.-led war in Iraq found little public support in South Korea. But recent opinion polls show that most South Koreans would support sending soldiers with U.N. backing.

Saturday's announcement of the additional dispatch of South Korean troops comes two days after the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S.-led resolution aimed at speeding up the stabilization and independence of Iraq.

Japan, earlier in the week, announced it would make an initial contribution of $1.5 billion in grants to Iraq next year. However, the Japanese government is still weighing a request from the United States to dispatch non-combat troops.

President Bush in Tokyo on Friday personally thanked Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for the monetary contribution. Japanese media say the country is expected to unveil a four-year aid package totaling $5 billion at an international donors conference next week in Madrid.

Senior administration officials traveling with the president say Mr. Bush will press other Asian leaders for significant contributions in face-to-face meetings at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. But they acknowledge that few countries are likely to make contributions on the scale of Japan's nor will many nations commit to sending troops to Iraq.