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Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi expressed his intention Wednesday to leave some room for bureaucrats to answer questions during Diet sessions, rather than having only Diet members do the job, as proposed by Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa.

The prime minister made the remark during deliberations in the Upper House Budget Committee, in reference to a policy agreement he made last month with Ozawa.

The agreement calls for, among other things, abolishing the current system under which bureaucrats often answer questions asked of lawmakers during a Diet session.

However, Obuchi, whose Cabinet just saw its approval rating rise to 29 percent this month from 25 percent in September, told the committee Wednesday that it would be difficult for politicians to answer all the questions. “It may be possible to let administrative officials answer some questions as witnesses,” he said without expanding on the topic.

Meanwhile, on participation by the Self-Defense Forces in overseas peacekeeping operations, Obuchi said the Liberal Democratic Party-Liberal Party agreement is not meant to allow the SDF to join U.N. forces.

Instead, he said, the agreement was meant to show the two parties’ common stance to fully discuss the overall security issue. The remarks came as the LDP and Liberal Party are set to finalize their policy deal toward forming a coalition.

According to a poll released by Kyodo News on Wednesday, the Obuchi Cabinet’s disapproval rating remains high at 65.5 percent, down 1.7 percentage points from the previous Kyodo poll.

The support rate for his ruling Liberal Democratic Party increased to 32.5 percent, up 6.1 percentage points, while that for the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, dropped 6.0 percentage points to 16.8 percent.

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