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A nonpartisan study group aimed at privatizing postal services gathered Wednesday for its first meeting in 18 months, apparently encouraged by the inauguration of its chairman, Junichiro Koizumi, as prime minister.

The group, which will draw up a set of proposals by the end of the year, hopes to influence deliberations by a similar advisory panel to the prime minister as well as a government panel that will be set up in the summer under the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.

Satoru Matsubara, professor of economics at Toyo University, expressed his hope that the state-run postal services would be privatized by 2008 after becoming a public corporation in 2003.

Koizumi, serving as the group’s nominal head, will not participate in group activities while he is serving as the prime minister. But he encouraged Shigefumi Matsuzawa, a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker, to promote discussions in the group

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