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Before leaving for Europe Wednesday, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi instructed members of his Liberal Democratic Party to work hard to find common ground with the Liberal Party on various policy issues ahead of the formation of their planned coalition.

Obuchi told the heads of five working groups that reaching a consensus on basic policies between the two parties is a precondition to the start of a coalition government, which is scheduled to begin soon after Obuchi returns Jan. 13.

“A coalition government (with the Liberal Party) will start before the regular session of the Diet (begins Jan. 19), and five project teams have been set up to seek common ground on various policies as a precondition to forming the coalition government,” Obuchi reportedly said. “I would like the team members to work hard to that end while I am away.”

In response to strong requests from the Liberal Party, the two parties set up five issue-specific working groups to deal with security and defense, the introduction of a more powerful deputy ministerial system, a reduction in the number of Diet members, and administrative and economic reforms.

The group studying the security issue and the one tasked with the proposed deputy minister system decided to hold talks virtually on a daily basis from that day forward to produce results by Obuchi’s return.

However, these discussions are expected to encounter difficulties due to wide differences between the two parties. The Liberal Party is calling for Self-Defense Forces participation in a wide range of U.N. peacekeeping activities, but the LDP is reluctant to accept such a proposal.

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