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Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007

Ozawa says DPJ ready for election; still opposes MSDF law

Staff writer

Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa said Wednesday his party will be prepared for the possible dissolution of the Lower House and general election following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's surprise resignation announcement.

Ozawa also reiterated that the DPJ's opposition to extending the special antiterrorism law that will expire Nov. 1 has not changed, regardless of the government's leadership change.

"You never know when the Lower House will be dissolved, so it is a matter of course for a politician and a political party to take all possible measures to be prepared for an election," the opposition leader told a news conference, adding the DPJ "is hoping for a general election as soon as possible."

Abe, president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, announced his intention to resign in the afternoon.

"I've been in the political world for nearly 40 years, but I don't think I've ever seen anything like this," Ozawa said. "I think this is the first time that a prime minister, who lost a majority (in the Upper House) but continued to stay in his post, reshuffled his Cabinet and gave his general policy speech in the Diet just a few days ago, has resigned like this.

"I'm really not sure what Abe's state of mind is like at the moment," he said.

One of the reasons Abe gave for his resignation was the difficult time he was having getting the special antiterrorism law extended. The law allows the Maritime Self-Defense Force to fuel ships engaged in NATO-led counterterrorism operations in the Indian Ocean.

"Our fundamental approach to security is to oppose the antiterrorism law and (the activities) in Iraq," Ozawa said. "And there is no chance that our policy will change."

Abe also said in his announcement that Ozawa snubbed him earlier in the day when he requested a meeting with the opposition leader.

LDP Diet affairs chief Tadamori Oshima met DPJ counterpart Kenji Yamaoka just before noon Monday and officially asked for a meeting between Abe and Ozawa.

Afterward, Yamaoka told reporters he asked Oshima to gather more information on why Abe wanted the meeting and said other means of communication were available, such as question time, which would have meant engaging in a one-on-one debate between Abe and Ozawa in the Diet.

Abe said Ozawa "rejected" the leader's talks, but Ozawa said he was never asked for such a meeting.

"Up until (Wednesday), neither I nor (the DPJ) have had any official request (from Abe), and therefore I haven't had a chance to say yes or no," Ozawa said.

He also said he is ready to hold any type of meeting with the new prime minister and president of the LDP.

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The Japan Times

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