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NATO Chief Hopes Japan Will Play Bigger Role in Afghanistan

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says he hopes Japan will assume a bigger role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, including possibly taking part in the NATO-led security mission.

Speaking at a forum in Tokyo Thursday, de Hoop Scheffer said Japan has yet to reach, what he called, "the limit of its possibilities" in participating in the operations of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

NATO commanders have complained that the current level of troops for ISAF is not enough to ensure security for Afghanistan, where the international force is battling a resurgent Taliban.

The NATO chief is to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda later Thursday. He also is due to hold talks with Japan's defense and foreign ministers during his three-day visit.

Tokyo says it cannot contribute troops to ISAF, because of Japan's pacifist constitution.

The Japanese navy took part in a U.S.-led mission in the Indian Ocean, searching terrorists and drug smugglers. But Prime Minister Fukuda was forced to pull the navy out of that mission last month, when opposition parties blocked an extension of its participation.

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