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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 December, 2003, 07:22 GMT
Japan buries slain Iraq diplomats
Japanese Foreign Ministry memorial to diplomats killed in Iraq
Both men were given posthumous honours and promotions
Japan has buried two diplomats killed in Iraq last month in an emotional ceremony in Tokyo.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had to pause briefly while speaking at the event, seemingly overcome with grief.

"We will never forget your distinguished service," he said of Katsuhiko Oku and Masamori Inoue, the country's first casualties in Iraq.

The two men were shot dead along with their Iraqi driver in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, on 29 November.

Oku, 45, and Inoue, 30, were both posthumously promoted and awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, one of Japan's highest public service honours.

They were the first Japanese diplomats to die in the line of duty since one was killed in a plane crash in 1978.

Pressing ahead

But despite the killings, the government appears to be pressing ahead with the deployment of a Japanese contingent in Iraq.

"In conformity with your wishes, the government is to work for the reconstruction of Iraq with the international community," Mr Koizumi said at the funeral.

The Cabinet is expected to approve the dispatch next week of around 1,000 air sea and ground forces, according to Japan's Mainichi newspaper.

Tokyo wants to send an advance group to Iraq later this month, with more troops following in January, reports said.

The killing of the two diplomats has fuelled opposition to the proposed deployment.

Japan's largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, has criticised the plan because it says it will mean the Japanese military entering a war zone for the first time since World War II.

The BBC's Jonathan Head
"In death, they have become national heroes"

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