• The Associated Press

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About 4,600 guests, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, fellow lawmakers and foreign dignitaries, gathered Tuesday to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto at the Nippon Budokan hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Known as a supporter of financial reforms at home and a tough trade negotiator with the U.S., Hashimoto died July 1 of organ failure and septic shock. He served as prime minister from January 1996 to July 1998.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta were among the 246 foreign officials expected to attend, according to Foreign Ministry official Nobuko Kaneda.

In 1995, as trade minister, Hashimoto demonstrated a rare toughness against Washington in a bitter, high-profile auto sales dispute.

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