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Finally announcing his resignation to the public, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said Wednesday he is leaving office so his Liberal Democratic Party can win back the public’s trust after a string of embarrassing scandals and his own gaffes.

Mori meanwhile boasted about what he claims were achievements made during his 12-month tenure, including advancement in information technology and diplomatic relations with the United States and Russia.

“I recognized that there are some aspects on which I would not be able to win the public’s understanding,” Mori said at his farewell press conference, held at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

Mori told Cabinet ministers and LDP executives of his intention to resign nearly two weeks ago, but Wednesday’s news conference was the first time he had addressed the subject in public.

“I frankly admit there’s been criticism about my speech and behavior. To restore the trust of the people, I believe we need to start from scratch under new leadership,” Mori said.

Mori acknowledged it was “painful” for him not to be able to clearly announce his resignation earlier, a difficulty he partly attributed to a threat by the opposition camp to boycott Diet deliberations for the fiscal 2001 state budget, which was approved at the end of March.

In addition to his concern over the budget, circumstances surrounding his party may have also delayed the public announcement of his resignation, he said.

“It was important to carry out the LDP convention on March 13 in peace and quiet,” Mori said during the 40-minute event. “My announcement was not supposed to disturb the party’s presidential election (scheduled for April 24), either.”

Mori also touted achievements made during his 12-month tenure, claiming that he has “set the course” for the nation’s economic recovery, for advancement in information technology, and for administrative reforms.

“I hope that whoever . . . is my successor will take over from where I left off,” he said.

Mori said he expects the April 24 party election to lead to “a result that will make everybody think that the LDP can make a fresh start.”

Mori said he accomplished his job as a “relief pitcher.”

A year ago, he succeeded Keizo Obuchi, who was cut down by a stroke that would later prove fatal. “One year was not a short period but certainly not long enough to carry out many things,” he said.

Mori also boasted that he “went round the Earth fives times” with 11 trips overseas while in office, adding that he has met former U.S. President Bill Clinton five times, Russian President Vladimir Putin six times and South Korean President Kim Jae Jung seven times.

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