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Former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said Tuesday he is ready to appear before the House of Representatives political ethics council to explain his alleged involvement in a recent scandal involving donations from the Japan Dental Association.

The issues of political funding, Iraq and pension reform are expected to be key topics of debate during the extraordinary Diet session that convened Tuesday.

Hashimoto said he is ready to attend the Lower House Deliberative Council on Political Ethics during separate meetings with Tsutomu Takebe, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, and Diet affairs chief Hidenao Nakagawa.

The LDP’s largest faction, formerly headed by Hashimoto, allegedly failed to report 100 million yen in donations that it received from the dental association in 2001.

Hashimoto was quoted as telling the two that he “would explain the circumstances (behind the scandal) within the scope of my knowledge in front of the political ethics council.”

Members of the Democratic Party of Japan have filed a criminal accusation with prosecutors against Hashimoto and LDP heavyweights Mikio Aoki and Hiromu Nonaka on charges that they covered up their receipt of the donation ahead of a House of Councilors election in July 2001.

Kanezo Muraoka, former chief Cabinet secretary, and Toshiyuki Takigawa, the faction’s accountant, have been indicted for allegedly hiding the 100 million yen. But prosecutors have either dropped or suspended charges against Hashimoto, Aoki and Nonaka.

“I don’t know (Hashimoto’s true) intention, but it is important that he fulfill his responsibility to explain to the people,” DPJ chief Katsuya Okada told reporters.

“To that end, it is better to have him testify as a sworn witness (before the Diet) than to the political ethics council.”

Yoshio Hachiro, DPJ Diet affairs chief, told an earlier news conference that the opposition will seek to have Hashimoto summoned as a sworn witness, thereby opening him to accusations of perjury if he lies in his Diet testimony.

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