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Democratic Party of Japan leader Seiji Maehara –
talks to DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama at a meeting of senior officials from the party’s local chapters in Tokyo on Saturday.

But the regional representatives criticized the way the executives dealt with the matter, and called on Maehara to step down as leader and DPJ lawmaker Hisayasu Nagata, who made the allegations based on the fake e-mail, to give up his Diet seat.

Maehara sought understanding from the regional members during their meeting at DPJ headquarters in Tokyo, saying he seriously thought about leaving his post but decided against it to avoid disrupting the party during the current Diet session.

“I’d like to offer an apology from my heart to party members throughout the country for causing so much trouble,” Maehara said in a meeting at DPJ headquarters in Tokyo of local chapters’ secretaries general and those in charge of election strategy.

He admitted his responsibility for having decided how to deal with the case among a small group of DPJ executives and for having said in a recent Diet debate among party leaders that he had secured evidence of the authenticity of the e-mail.

“I will walk the streets of regions where there are severe opinions until my term (as DPJ president) expires in September and make those views known within the party,” Maehara said.

A representative from Yamanashi Prefecture said the chapter cannot wait until September, and one from Hokkaido said Maehara should “take responsibility at a suitable time.” Another from Osaka Prefecture said Nagata should quit.

The meeting came amid growing criticism of the largest opposition party over allegations Nagata made based on the fake e-mail.

He alleged that Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie had ordered a payment to Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe’s younger son before the general election last September.

Horie, former president of the Internet and financial services firm, is in custody charged with securities law violations. Prosecutors arrested him and other Livedoor group executives in January.

During the meeting, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama also apologized for mishandling the issue. He briefed the participants on how Nagata and the party management were misled to accuse Takebe and the LDP in connection with the e-mail Nagata said he received from a journalist.

The meeting was originally planned only for talks on next year’s unified local election and the House of Councilors election, but amid fierce criticism from local chapters, the party leaders were forced to take the opportunity to apologize.

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