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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 07:34 GMT
'No change' to Japan troop plan
A resident drops a voting paper into a ballot box in a plebiscite at Iwakuni, southern Japan, on Sunday March 12, 2006.
Iwakuni locals do not want to host any more troops
Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi has ruled out changes to a relocation plan for US troops, despite a local poll overwhelmingly rejecting the proposal.

On Sunday, the people of Iwakuni city voted 8-1 against bringing more planes and troops to a local US airbase.

While the vote is not binding, analysts say it could put pressure on the government's deal.

The redeployment proposal is part of a project to streamline the US military presence in Japan.

Under the plans, which are currently under negotiation with Washington, the around 50,000 US troops currently stationed in Japan will be redistributed.

Some 7,000 are set to be withdrawn from the island of Okinawa, which is home to the largest US air base in the Pacific, to Guam.

The plan would also bring 57 more warplanes to Iwakuni, currently home to some 3,000 Marines.

'No change'

Mr Koizumi said the results of the Iwakuni vote would not affect the discussions - which the government hopes to complete by the end of the month.

"There is no change," he told reporters on Monday. "If you carry out a plebiscite anywhere, I'm sure residents will oppose the bases. That is what is difficult about security issues."

Protests have been held in almost all the cities likely to be given more troops.

On Saturday about 2,000 residents of Zama City, south of Tokyo, rallied to oppose plans to increase troop numbers there.

The issue of US troops in Japan is sensitive because of local worries about noise, environmental damage, and crimes committed by the military. The country is still scarred by a case in 1995 in which three American servicemen raped a Japanese schoolgirl in Okinawa.

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