• Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports

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Agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka told a fellow lawmaker four days before he killed himself that he had been pressured by the Liberal Democratic Party not to tell the truth about his office expenses, according to the lawmaker’s Web site.

Muneo Suzuki, a Lower House member and a heavyweight in the LDP before he was ousted from the party in 2002 and then convicted of taking bribes in connection with foreign aid projects, made the claim on his Web site Monday, the day Matsuoka hanged himself.

Suzuki said Matsuoka, under fire for claiming utility fees for his office even though its utility costs are free, made the remark when the two had a conversation last Thursday. They were longtime friends since their days in the LDP together.

During the conversation, Suzuki said he “offered help” to Matsuoka, saying he would give him a chance to tell the truth and apologize to the public about the scandal by asking him about it during a committee session Friday.

Suzuki also said on his Web site that he strongly urged Matsuoka to make a “dogeza” — an extreme form of apology in which Japanese people kneel on the floor and bow deeply until their forehead touches the floor — during the committee session.

But Matsuoka, while indicating his appreciation for Suzuki’s advice, replied, “I have been told by the party to keep silent now. This is an instruction from up above. I have no choice but to obey it,” according to the Web site.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brushed aside Suzuki’s claims when reporters asked him about the matter Tuesday evening.

When he was in the LDP, Suzuki wielded influence over the Foreign Ministry’s aid policy toward Africa and the Russian Far East, and he was reviled by ministry officials for his aggressiveness, which occasionally was accompanied by verbal threats.

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