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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi instructed Cabinet members Tuesday to replace the central government’s fleet of cars with low-pollution vehicles by March 2005.

Koizumi’s instruction came a day after his first policy speech at the Diet, in which he promised to replace “basically all” public vehicles owned by the government with low-pollution models. Koizumi told Cabinet members to implement a three-year plan, starting next April, at each government ministry and agency aimed at enforcing his environmentally friendly pledge, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda.

The reform-minded leader also ordered ministers to make efforts to select low-pollution cars, such as electric, natural gas and hybrid vehicles, in any new vehicle purchases made before April 2002, Fukuda said.

While the central government owns nearly 8,000 cars, only 3 percent are low-pollution vehicles.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma asked the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association the same day for carmakers to increase the variety of low-emissions models.

Hiranuma and Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi met with association chairman Hiroshi Okuda in the afternoon to convey the request.

“We are hoping that efforts will be made to increase models, cut costs and develop fuel cells at an early date,” Hiranuma told Okuda in a conference room in his ministry. Okuda agreed, a ministry official said.

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