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KOBE — Opponents of the proposed Kobe airport will begin collecting signatures later this month in order to push for a plebiscite to stop the controversial project.

The Kobe Airport Plebiscite Committee, which includes nearly 100 local citizens, on Monday submitted to City Hall a formal request to introduce a plebiscite and announced it will begin a petition drive to collect the necessary signatures around Aug. 20.

The law requires that at least 2 percent of eligible voters show they want a plebiscite in order for a bill concerning one to be presented to a local assembly. In Kobe, that means a minimum of about 50,000 signatures would be required.

However, Nobuo Nakamura, a committee spokesman, said about 300,000 signatures, one-third the total number of eligible voters, would be necessary in order to force the assembly to approve a plebiscite quickly. “Most people in Kobe feel that the airport is a waste of money and that the funds should be used to help those still affected by the 1995 earthquake,” Nakamura said.

Although the committee has the support of the Japanese Communist Party and New Socialist Party (Shinshakaito), only 19 of the 72 Kobe Municipal Assembly members oppose the airport. Newspaper polls indicate anywhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of Kobe voters oppose the project.

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