Former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa accepted an earnest request Wednesday evening from Liberal Democratic Party President Keizo Obuchi to assume the post of finance minister.

Miyazawa, 78, will take charge of the critical post in Obuchi’s new Cabinet as the nation remains mired in its worst recession and financial troubles in decades.

Obuchi is expected to name his new Cabinet immediately after his expected appointment as prime minister when the Diet convenes a special session today.

Miyazawa, a veteran politician, reluctantly agreed to take the financial portfolio after two separate meetings with Obuchi and former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato.

The appointment of the new finance minister has been closely followed amid strident calls here and abroad for prompt financial action on Japan’s part to get its economy out of the doldrums.

Obuchi’s political fate is also expected to be largely affected by how well the next Cabinet deals with economic and financial matters.

“I said I would (become the finance minister) after the LDP president told me he wouldn’t be able to form the Cabinet if I refused to take the post,” Miyazawa told reporters at his office Wednesday evening after meeting Obuchi.

Obuchi also told the senior politician that he could not think of an alternative, according to Miyazawa. At LDP headquarters, Obuchi told reporters that Miyazawa’s acceptance greatly encourages him to fulfill his responsibility as prime minister. “It is an important step forward,” Obuchi said, adding that he could now immediately get to work on filling the remaining ministerial positions.

Preparations for forming the Cabinet went relatively smoothly later in the day.

Party sources said State Foreign Secretary Masahiko Komura will be appointed foreign minister in place of Obuchi.

Taichi Sakaiya, a prominent author and critic, will become new director general of the Economic Planning Agency, and Kaoru Yosano, a former education minister, is pegged to become the minister of international trade and industry, the sources said.

It is considered extremely rare for a politician who has served as prime minister to assume a ministerial post afterward. Miyazawa will be the second finance minister to do so; Korekiyo Takahashi was the first when he assumed the post 70 years ago to deal with problems related to the “Showa Depression” financial crisis.

Miyazawa took Japan’s helm from 1991 to 1993 and served twice as finance minister in the Cabinets of Yasuhiro Nakasone and Noboru Takeshita. Head of the LDP task force set up late last year to restore stability to the financial system, Miyazawa is widely known to be well-versed in economic and financial matters.

Earlier this year, Miyazawa repeatedly urged Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to change the government stance on fiscal austerity and implement permanent income tax cuts to help boost demand-led economic growth.

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