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Japan FM calls U.S. Iraq policy immature: media

Sunday, February 4, 2007; 1:04 AM

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso has criticised U.S. policy in Iraq, saying American actions following the initial fighting in 2003 have been "immature," Japanese media reports said on Sunday.

The comments follow remarks by Japan's defense minister last month saying President Bush had been wrong to start the Iraq war, and may damage ties with Washington ahead of a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney on February 20-22.

"Rumsfeld went ahead and did it, but the operation after occupation was very immature and did not work so well, so that's why there's still trouble now," the financial daily Nikkei quoted Aso as saying in a speech on Saturday, referring to former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Aso went on to stress the importance of aiding Iraq, adding that Japan should make a significant contribution to the rebuilding effort, Kyodo news agency said.

Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister at the time of the U.S.-led invasion, quickly threw Japanese support behind Bush's policy. He sent about Japanese non-combat troops to Iraq in Japan's largest and most dangerous mission since World War Two.

Japanese media say Washington has been annoyed at a string of comments by Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma. Some have speculated that this could explain why an expected meeting between the two countries' foreign and defense ministers has not been held.

Kyuma was also quoted as making controversial comments last month about relocating a U.S. military base in Japan and the need to win local understanding.

"I am telling (the U.S. side) not to say such patronising things, that I am talking to the governor, so please wait a bit and leave Japanese matters to Japan," he was quoted as saying.

The remarks, together with the health minister's recent comments calling women "birth-giving machines," have been a headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose own popularity is falling and whose leadership has come under fire.

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