Japan won't arrest Marines over alleged rape-media

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TOKYO, Oct 26 (Reuters) Japanese police have decided not to seek arrest warrants for four US Marines who were being investigated for the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman, Kyodo news agency said today, citing sources involved.

Police in the southern Japanese prefecture of Hiroshima declined to comment on the report, which said they had decided against the arrests because of uncertainties in the case.

Japanese authorities and media said last week that police were investigating allegations that four Marines stationed at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in southwest Japan had raped the woman in a car at a car park in nearby Hiroshima City after meeting her at an event hall.

Japan is host to about 50,000 US military personnel as part of the US-Japan security alliance, but friction often occurs with local communities near their bases because of concern about crime, accidents and noise.

Last year, voters in Iwakuni rejected in a non-binding referendum a plan to expand the nearby Marine base by moving carrier-based planes and personnel from Atsugi naval base near Tokyo, but the mayor of Iwakuni recently suggested he was willing to discuss the expansion.

Officials at Iwakuni air base were not immediately able to comment on the case, including whether the four Marines were still being detained at the facility.

The 1995 rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by three U.S.

servicemen on the southern island of Okinawa sparked huge protests.

Reuters SZ VP0740

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