In an apparent attempt to erase a critical contradiction that could call into question the legitimacy of his administration, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori apologized Tuesday and withdrew his earlier explanation of how the comatose Keizo Obuchi had been replaced.

During an Upper House Budget Committee session, Mori revised the statement he made Monday that Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki initially refused to take on the job of acting prime minister, contradicting Aoki’s own remarks that he was willing to accept the post after Obuchi had personally asked him to do so on the night of April 2.

In Tuesday’s session, Mori insisted it was when he asked Aoki to remain at his post as chief Cabinet secretary in the new administration — not when Aoki was about to become acting prime minister — that Aoki declined the Cabinet post.

“I was confused when I made that remark,” Mori said. “As (the opposition) made the allegation that the chief Cabinet secretary framed a plot to become acting prime minister, I just wanted to say he is not that kind of man.”

Mori’s uninvited remark has fanned the flames over the credibility of Aoki’s explanation.

Aoki had originally insisted that Obuchi ordered him “to become acting prime minister” if Obuchi’s medical test results indicated that would be necessary, but he later claimed that it was his “understanding” from the conversation that Obuchi ordered him to take the post.