Giving in to pressure from both the opposition and allies of the Liberal Democratic Party to step down, Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka announced Tuesday that he will resign to take responsibility for the arrests of two ministry inspectors accused of taking bribes.The decision was conveyed to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto during an evening meeting after Diet deliberations came to a halt as opposition parties demanded that Mitsuzuka relinquish his post. Mitsuzuka told reporters after returning from the meeting that he will formally submit his resignation today.Two financial inspectors from his ministry were arrested Monday for allegedly being wined and dined by four major banks in return for information regarding ministry inspections of the banks. “I feel great responsibility for the (scandal) and would like to offer a deep apology to the public,” he said after acknowledging that he will step down.Tuesday’s delay in the Diet affected debate on several bills considered vital to the government of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, including the supplementary budget for the current fiscal year. Also up for action are bills to make possible Hashimoto’s pledge of 2 trillion yen in pump-priming income and residential tax cuts as well as those to pave the way for the use of 30 trillion yen in public funds to stabilize the banking sector.In an effort to break the Diet impasse, the ruling camp, which comprises Hashimoto’s LDP, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake, had proposed that Mitsuzuka would resign if the opposition agreed to begin deliberations today. The ruling parties also called on the opposition parties to agree to a Lower House passage of the extra budget and tax cut bills today, as they need to be enacted as swiftly as possible.The timetable for the bills on public funding for the financial sector, originally expected to clear the chamber the same day, could be renegotiated, they suggested.Up until Tuesday morning, Mitsuzuka had indicated he would not step down, stressing that his responsibility lies in overhauling the Finance Ministry to prevent similar incidents from recurring. But as the day progressed, members from allied parties, such as SDP head Takako Doi, also began to demand that he resign.Doi said a thorough restructuring of the ministry should be sought in addition to Mitsuzuka’s resignation. She stressed during a meeting of SDP lawmakers that the current Diet session should be devoted to reform of the ministry and to cleaning up corruption in the bureaucracy through measures including a new law mandating discipline among government officials.In addition, many LDP lawmakers said Mitsuzuka’s resignation could not be helped given the tense situation in the Diet and strong public sentiment over the scandal. Hashimoto and the LDP had feared the possibility of a serious delay in the enactment of the extra budget and the tax cuts as both are considered to be important economic stimulus measures.The tax cut bills, in particular, were drafted to make possible a partial return of tax money by February, and rapid Diet clearance is a must, according to Finance Ministry officials.

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