Japan began openly debating Thursday whether it should send minesweepers to the Persian Gulf to assist in the postwar cleanup operation, but there were conflicting reports on whether the United States wanted Japan's help.

Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu told the Diet, or Japanese parliament, no decision had been made yet on whether Japan will send minesweepers.Japanese public opinion forced Kaifu to give up his plan to send Japanese military aircraft to the gulf during the war to help transport refugees. Kaifu was also forced to withdraw a proposal last year to send non-combat Japanese troops to the gulf.