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Democratic Party of Japan heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa said Wednesday he will offer Prime Minister Naoto Kan a key Cabinet post if he is elected party leader and thus the next prime minister.

During a news conference in Tokyo ahead of Tuesday’s DPJ presidential election, Ozawa also noted that two of his key allies — former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Azuma Koshiishi, who heads the party’s Upper House caucus — would also be given key posts to keep the party united after the poll, which many fear could deeply split the DPJ regardless of the result.

“It would be clear to the eyes of the public that the party is unified if (Kan and Hatoyama) play important roles in the government,” said Ozawa, adding he will offer Koshiishi key posts either in the party or the government.

“Kan and I have (promised) that regardless of the outcome, we should unite,” he said.

On policies, Ozawa said he believes permanent foreign residents of Japan should be granted voting rights for local-level elections, although he added that further deliberation is necessary.

“South Korea has granted (such rights) and Europe is leaning toward that direction. Since (foreigners) are paying taxes, I personally think suffrage in local elections should be granted,” he said.

The DPJ has been pushing for foreign suffrage for more than a decade and Ozawa has been a strong advocate. But the party has failed to put the agenda on the political table due to strong opposition from conservative politicians within the party as well as from its coalition partner, Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party).

Ozawa’s pledge to give Kan a key Cabinet post came after Kan hinted earlier in the week that he might grant Ozawa a key party post related to election affairs if he is re-elected as party president.

Kan’s remark reportedly drew criticism from his anti-Ozawa aides, and Kan now has remained mum on what post he might consider for Ozawa if he remains party president.

Commenting on whether the now male-only Chrysanthemum Throne should be opened to females, Ozawa said: “It don’t think it is unnatural for women to become the (reigning) empress. There is no need to restrict the succession to men.”

Political debate heated up over the issue when Princess Aiko became the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako.

But the momentum died down when Princess Kiko, the wife of Princess Akishino, the second son of the Emperor, gave birth to a boy in 2006.

On the economic front, Ozawa said if the economy deteriorates further, he may have to “put in mind” issuing additional government bonds to ensure resources to prime the pump.

To curb the yen rise against the dollar, Ozawa reiterated that Japan should step in the currency market and sell the yen even if the impact is limited.

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