The Seoul government is to seek approval from the country's parliament to extend the deployment of South Korean troops in Iraq by a year, news reports said yesterday. \nThe defense ministry decided last week to extend the mission which was originally due to expire at the end of the year, Yonhap news agency said. \nThe Cabinet will will ask parliament to allow up to 3,600 South Korean troops to stay in Arbil, a Kurdish-controlled town in northern Iraq, Yonhap said. \nWhen asked about the report, Shin Geoung-Ja, a defense ministry public relations official, said: "We can neither confirm nor deny it." \nBut an unnamed ministry source told Yonhap the deployment of the troops should be extended because it had been delayed for a long time by controversy over the original deployment. \n"If the parliament fails to approve the extension of the mission ... the South Korean troops would have to return home without having completed their job in Iraq," the source said. \nIn February, the parliament approved the dispatch of up to 3,600 troops for relief and rehabilitation in Iraq until Dec. 31. \nBut the dispatch was delayed for months against a background of growing anti-war protests and it was only in late last month that South Korea completed the deployment of 2,800 troops in Arbil. \nThe mission is to be reinforced by another 800 troops next month, just a month before the mission is formally to expire. \nThe government attempted to impose a tough media blackout on the deployment, citing the security reasons following the execution of a South Korean translator by Islamic militants in Iraq in June. \nThe ruling Uri Party, which has a majority in parliament, has pledged to endorse an extended mission by South Korean troops in Iraq. \n"An absolute majority, including both ruling and opposition lawmakers, supported the dispatch of troops to Iraq. I'm sure they will approve a motion for an extended mission," Uri Party chairman Lee Bu-Young said last week. \nThe conservative opposition Grand National Party, the second biggest party in parliament, has also approved the troop deployment.
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