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Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007

Abe offers apology from hospital over political turmoil


Staff writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized to the nation Monday for suspending the crucial Diet session and damaging public trust in the government with his sudden Sept. 12 resignation announcement.

The outgoing prime minister held a news conference at Keio University Hospital in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, a day before newly elected Liberal Democratic Party President Yasuo Fukuda will replace him and form a new Cabinet.

"The first thing I want to apologize for is that I decided to step down at an important time at the onset of the Diet session and with the worst timing after delivering a policy speech, which stalled Diet discussions," said a weary-looking Abe, his voice shaking.

"I deeply apologize for causing tremendous trouble to my Cabinet members, my party members, and above all, the people of this country," he said.

He said that his health condition was "the biggest reason" behind his abrupt resignation, and admitted that he should have explained the reason at the Sept. 12 news conference when he announced his intention to step down.

At the time, he said he was stepping down to break the Diet deadlock over the antiterrorism law that allows the Maritime Self-Defense Force to provide fuel to ships in the Indian Ocean engaged in U.S.-led operations in and around Afghanistan.

He was hospitalized the following day for what doctors described as a stress-related stomach ailment.

Toshifumi Hibi, a doctor treating Abe and a medical professor at Keio University, told the news conference that Abe has not yet regained 5 kg he has lost, but his appetite is returning.

Abe said he will attend his last Cabinet meeting Tuesday, where the ministers will resign en masse, and the following Diet session to elect the next prime minister.

He denied a rumor that Taro Aso, who he had made LDP secretary general, drove him into a corner to step down.

"That is completely groundless," Abe said.



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