Despite Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s expectations of establishing cooperative ties between the Liberal Democratic Party, which he heads, and the Liberal Party, it is still uncertain whether an agreement will be reached at the next meeting of party leaders, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Tuesday.

Obuchi held a series of meetings with opposition leaders Monday but offered only to meet again with Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa to discuss various policy issues.

Late Monday, en route to Malaysia to attend an informal summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Obuchi expressed his willingness to hold another meeting with Ozawa as early as Thursday to “conclude” their coalition. “The prime minister has seriously been thinking about ways to enable smooth Diet proceedings and possible cooperation with other parties,” Nonaka told a regular news conference. “His remarks are an indication of his expectations in setting a path to form an alliance as early as possible.”

However, Nonaka hinted it would not be easy to strike a deal Thursday, adding that such remarks by the prime minister triggered speculation that a new political framework will be established in the very near future.

During a 30-minute meeting Monday, Obuchi asked Ozawa to strengthen cooperation between the two parties through the discussion of various policy issues. The plea was seen as a desperate effort by Obuchi’s ruling LDP to repair its minority standing in the Upper House.

An alliance between the LDP and the Liberal Party is being contemplated at various levels, but the main sticking point appears to be their respective positions on the 5 percent consumption tax.

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