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Japan ends refuelling mission supporting coalition forces

Japan officially ended its naval refuelling mission that supported coalition ships mobilised in the Afghanistan war since 2001. Tokyo pledged instead to step up reconstruction aid to the war-ravaged country.

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AFP - Japan's defence minister on Friday ordered the end of a naval refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean that has supported the US-led war in Afghanistan since 2001, his ministry said.

"The defence minister issued an order at 11:00 am (0200 GMT) today to the fleet commander to end refuelling activity in the Indian Ocean at 12:00 pm on January 15 and to send the troops home," the ministry said in a statement.

The move fulfils a pledge by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's centre-left government, which took office in September vowing a less subservient relationship with security partner the United States.

Shortly before issuing the order, Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters that the two-ship mission would perform its last refuelling operation later Friday before heading back.

Japan has supplied oil and water to vessels from 11 countries that have joined international forces in Afghanistan.

With the end of the refuelling mission, Hatoyama pledged that Japan would instead step up aid to Afghanistan, offering five billion dollars over the next five years to help rebuild the war-torn nation.

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