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Amid mounting speculation over his party’s possible merger with the LDP, Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa on Thursday denied media reports that claimed he put the merger plan to LDP leaders over the weekend.

“It is not true that I proposed a merger with the Liberal Democratic Party,” Ozawa told a regular press conference. He also denied speculation that merger talks are going on behind the scenes.

Ozawa, meanwhile, said that his party would rather leave the current tripartite coalition government, which includes the LDP and New Komeito, unless its stances are fully reflected in the government’s policy making.

“I can clearly say that we will fail to gain public support (in the next general election) if we remain in the coalition with the tripartite agreements unfulfilled,” he said.

On the other hand, Ozawa maintained that the Liberals are willing to team up with “any party” if it will help them realize their policies.

The Liberal Party is insisting that the planned nursing-care insurance system be reviewed and Ozawa has stated that his party will leave the coalition if the government includes expenditure for the insurance system in the fiscal 1999 supplementary budget, which will be drafted by the government later this month.

A month after the launch of the tripartite coalition, Ozawa’s Liberal Party is apparently in an awkward position as its intransigence on policy has been ignored by the LDP-New Komeito alliance.

Ozawa, who defected from the LDP in 1993, is apparently considering ways to maintain his political influence after the upcoming general election, which must be held by October 2000.

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