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The House of Councilors Cabinet Committee approved a bill Thursday to establish a third-party panel to discuss how four road-related public entities should be privatized.

The bill would allow Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to select up to seven panelists to determine the fate of Japan Highway Public Corp., Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp., Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority.

The panel will present a report by the end of the year.

The bill, which cleared the House of Representatives on April 23, was expected to be endorsed at a Friday plenary session of the Upper House.

Koizumi has proposed that the four entities be privatized into one as part of his reform drive. His proposal has met strong opposition from the old guard in the Liberal Democratic Party, however, as many LDP lawmakers have vested interests in road construction.

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