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A war of words erupted between senior officials of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan over both parties’ wooing of now-arrested Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie to run in the Sept. 11 general election.

The exchange was triggered Tuesday when LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe faced criticism from reporters for having enthusiastically supported Horie, who was arrested Monday on suspicion of violating the securities law, in the election.

Takebe asked why the reporters didn’t also confront then DPJ leader Katsuya Okada, who, he said, had also “approached” the maverick Internet entrepreneur before the poll.

Horie ultimately ran as an independent in the Hiroshima No. 6 district against ousted LDP heavyweight Shizuka Kamei, a leading foe of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization drive. Horie received unofficial backing from the LDP, with both Takebe and fiscal policy minister Heizo Takenaka stumping for him, but he lost to Kamei in the end.

After Takebe’s rebuttal, Okada lodged a protest in a letter sent later Tuesday, claiming he had “met with Horie at his request” before the election, but did not ask him to run on the party ticket after it became clear his way of thinking differed from that of the DPJ.

“The fact that you, as secretary general of a political party, made remarks contrary to the fact in a forum such as a news conference can mislead the public and is very regrettable,” Okada wrote. “I strongly protest and demand that (you) retract the remark and apologize.”

Takebe offered a written rebuttal of his own Wednesday, noting in a letter to Okada that he had met with Horie on Aug. 16 — about a week after Koizumi dissolved the House of Representatives and called a general election.

“I only pointed out the fact that you had met with Horie. . . . The fact that the purpose of the meeting was to get him to run as a candidate was aptly spelled out in your own protest note,” Takebe countered. “Regardless of which side called the meeting, if (the encounter) cannot be called an ‘approach,’ what can?

“Therefore, my remark is not one subject to a retraction or an apology.”

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