Hatoyama kicks off the year with scandal apology

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Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama kicked off 2010 with an apology over his political money scandal but pledged to pursue his goal of revitalizing the economy in the new year.

“I have caused much concern to the nation over my political funds issues” in 2009, Hatoyama said in a New Year’s statement released Friday, expressing an apology for the shady practice that led to two of his former secretaries being indicted.

Hatoyama voiced hope that the issue can be put to rest so he can confront pressing challenges, most notably finding a way to mitigate the economic slump and falling job market.

“I believe it is my responsibility to live up to the public’s high expectations toward the change in government,” he said.

Highlighting economic recovery, creating jobs and halting deflation as key goals of his government, Hatoyama said in his New Year’s message that he will push for quick passage of the 2010 annual budget in the ordinary Diet session that begins this month.

“Our honeymoon is over,” Hatoyama said in welcoming the new year. “I won’t be asking the public for a warm reception. I hope we can think, argue and share harsh criticism together” for the common good.