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Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto dodged questions Oct. 1 over his responsibility in the failed Cabinet appointment of an ex-convict and instead repeated his reform pledge.During a Lower House plenary session, Kansei Nakano, chairman of opposition party Shinshinto’s Diet Affairs Committee, urged Hashimoto to step down to take the blame for including Koko Sato in the Cabinet he formed last month. Hashimoto repeated his earlier comments that he has reflected deeply on his lack of consideration for public opinion, which seeks higher ethical standards in politics.He said he is determined to carry out his political responsibility by accomplishing planned reforms in six areas. “We will make our utmost efforts to recover public trust in politics by taking measures to establish political ethics based on an agreement reached Sept. 30 by the three parties of the ruling bloc,” Hashimoto said.Hashimoto’s Liberal Democratic Party and its two smaller non-Cabinet allies, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake, agreed Sept. 30 to draft relevant measures during the 75-day extraordinary Diet session that started Sept. 29. The measures will include restricting the activities of politicians like Sato who have been convicted of bribery.Nakano was the first to interpellate Hashimoto’s speech Sept. 29 in the Lower House. He severely criticized Hashimoto for appointing Sato, an LDP Lower House member, to the head of the Management and Coordination Agency when the Cabinet was reshuffled Sept. 11.Sato, who in 1986 received a suspended sentence for taking bribes in connection with the Lockheed payoff scandal of the 1970s, resigned from the post last week. “It would never be allowed in society for a person, who has a past conviction for a crime he committed by making use of his authority, to be given a post in the Cabinet in which he again exercises authority,” Nakano said. “It is the prime minister who should resign to take responsibility for the appointment, which the prime minister said had been made well, acknowledging public criticism.”

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