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Japan Begins Withdrawal from Iraq

Japanese transport trucks lugging military vehicles and equipment have left Iraq, marking the start of Japan's withdrawal from the war-torn country.

The military contingent was seen crossing into Kuwait Sunday after leaving the base at Samawa in the southern Iraqi province of Muthanna. Iraqi forces are scheduled to take over security from coalition forces in the province next month.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday that Japan's 600 non-combat troops had fulfilled their humanitarian assignment and would leave Iraq.

Mr. Koizumi has supported the U.S. policy in Iraq, although a vast majority of Japanese opposed the deployment of their troops.

Japan's air force will remain active in Iraq, transporting goods and personnel for the U.S.-led coalition.

No Japanese troops have been hurt in Iraq, but insurgents have killed six Japanese citizens, including two diplomats.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.