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Friday, Nov. 5, 2010

Diet takes up stimulus package; kingpin stays mum


By ALEX MARTIN and NATSUKO FUKUE
Staff writers

As the Diet began a plenary session on a ¥5.1 trillion emergency stimulus package Thursday, Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Katsuya Okada said his efforts to persuade Ichiro Ozawa to appear before an ethics panel to explain his involvement in a political money scandal did not bear fruit.

"I've asked him to give an explanation at the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics," Okada said during a news conference after the two met for roughly 20 minutes in the Diet. "But Mr. Ozawa said he had no intention of changing his mind."

Okada, whose request to meet with the veteran lawmaker was finally accepted, said he told him how his obstinacy could hurt Diet deliberations as well as future elections if he doesn't appear before the ethics panel.

Opposition parties have demanded that Ozawa be summoned following a September decision by an independent judicial panel that he be indicted over his alleged role in falsifying a financial report by his political body.

"Although an explanation at the political ethics council may not clear up everything, it is a fact that the issue has become an obstacle. I asked him to think about that," Okada said, adding he and Ozawa agreed upon a future meeting to discuss the matter further.

Ozawa appeared Wednesday on the Internet news streaming site Nico Nico Douga and said he will not bow to calls to give sworn testimony in the Diet. He added that he will talk in an open court.

Meanwhile during the plenary session, the opposition slammed the DPJ-led ruling bloc for pork-barrel policies and weak diplomacy.

During the Lower House plenary session, former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Bunmei Ibuki said the DPJ should withdraw its policies, including the child-rearing allowance, removal of highway tolls and free high school tuition.

The opposition's remarks were in response to the financial policy speech given Tuesday by Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda in which he outlined the ¥5.1 trillion emergency stimulus package aimed at tackling deflation and the high yen.

Ibuki also said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's recent visit to Kunasiri Island off Hokkaido and the run-in involving a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard ships near the Senkaku Islands are affecting Japan- U.S. relations.

"The DPJ lacks enough understanding of the security issue," he said.



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