• Kyodo

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Hyogo Gov. Toshitami Kaihara may step down in June, about 11/2 years before his term ends, close aides said Monday.

Kaihara cited his wife’s ailing health as one reason he was thinking of stepping down and said he believes he has taken care of the prefecture’s top priority of recovering from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, which devastated the prefectural capital of Kobe and its surrounding vicinity, killing more than 6,400.

Kaihara, 67, has already moved out from the governor’s official residence to care for his wife.

Kaihara, whose term ends in November 2002, said Monday he has been discussing the issue with some aides and Hyogo lawmakers but has not yet made a final decision.

It is believed that if Kaihara does decide to resign, he will announce it in early June, when the prefectural assembly is scheduled to begin meeting, according to his secretaries.

Kaihara, a former Home Affairs Ministry bureaucrat, was first elected governor in 1986 and is serving his fourth term.

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