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Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007
Ozawa to stay on as DPJ president
No more talk of forming a grand coalition with LDP-New Komeito bloc
By SETSUKO KAMIYA and MASAMI ITO
Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa on Tuesday reversed his earlier decision to step down and pledged to remain the leader of the largest opposition force.
DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama, who spent the day cajoling the party's rank and file into uniting behind Ozawa, met with him in the evening to persuade him to stay on.
Emerging from the meeting, Hatoyama quoted Ozawa as telling him, "I feel ashamed to say this, but I would like to do my utmost again" as the party's leader.
Hatoyama also said he gave Ozawa's letter of resignation back to him.
Ozawa's change of heart came after Hatoyama assured him the party was behind him completely. But Hatoyama apparently attached one condition — that Ozawa never again bring up the idea of joining hands with the ruling coalition.
It wasn't easy for the DPJ executives to line up the party rank and file. Some were highly critical of Ozawa for tendering his resignation so suddenly on Sunday.
Party executives, on the other hand, had expressed confidence he would change his mind and stay at the helm.
DPJ executives, apparently fearing that Ozawa's possible departure would lead to the party's breakup, felt compelled to give junior members an official and detailed explanation of recent developments. They offered assurances that the party would not form a coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc and instead would continue to aim for a change in political leadership by winning the next Lower House election under Ozawa's direction.
Participants said they would accept the decision of the executive committee, but many wanted to hear an explanation from Ozawa himself. "There is no way we are going to let (Ozawa) quit easily," said Kazuhiro Harada, a DPJ Lower House lawmaker. "I promised the public that we would make (Ozawa) prime minister."
One DPJ Lower House lawmaker who asked to remain anonymous, however, expressed dissatisfaction.
"I'm going to follow the decision (of the party executives), but I still want an explanation of how we can go into the next election under a leader who said we were still not capable of coming to power," he said.
During the news conference Sunday at which Ozawa suddenly expressed his intention to resign, he criticized the DPJ for still lacking strength and said it would be difficult to win the next Lower House election on its own.
Ozawa said he was going to step down to take responsibility for the political turmoil triggered by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's offer last Friday to form a grand coalition with the DPJ.
But Tuesday morning, DPJ executives met and pledged to continue pressing Ozawa to remain as DPJ leader despite their decision not to join the ruling bloc, counter to Ozawa's wishes.
The Democratic Party of Japan on Tuesday drafted a 12-item outline of assistance for Afghanistan featuring possible Maritime Self-Defense Force participation in antiterrorism operations in the Indian Ocean, including refueling duties, if authorized by a U.N. resolution.
The outline was presented to the party's foreign affairs and defense panel. DPJ lawmakers said they will thrash out details based on the outline to try to compile a bill on aid for Afghanistan.
The DPJ, the largest opposition party, opposed the just-ended MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan. DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa had argued the deployment violated the Constitution because Japan provided logistic support without U.N. authorization, although the U.N. had welcomed the mission.
The DPJ outline released Tuesday leaves room for the party to support missions aimed at interdicting ships allegedly linked to terrorism in the Indian Ocean on condition that such missions are "endorsed" by the U.N.
According to the outline, Japan would play a key role in establishing an emergency U.N. peace mission and fostering a truce between the Afghanistan government under President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban.
Personnel including Self-Defense Forces members would be dispatched to Afghanistan as "civilians" to help disarm illegal armed groups — the Taliban — and to reform the security sector, the outline says.
It states the SDF could be sent for nonmilitary activities such as humanitarian assistance work and building infrastructure after the situation in Afghanistan is stabilized.
But the outline opposes SDF participation in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force — an idea that Ozawa backs — and opposes the dispatch of SDF combat troops to Afghanistan.