Japan's former PM Obuchi dies

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The Independent Online

World leaders have paid tribute to Keizo Obuchi, the former Japanese prime mMinister, who died in hospital yesterday after falling into a coma six weeks ago.

The US President, Bill Clinton, said he was "deeply saddened" by the loss of one of America's closest friends. Mr Obuchi had been "a strong and vibrant leader" who had devoted himself to "dedicated and principled public service", Mr Clinton said.

Yoshiro Mori, who took over the reins of government after Mr Obuchi suffered a stroke, hinted that he would call a general election on June 25, his predecessor's birthday.

Mr Mori, a close friend and a stalwart of Mr Obuchi's Liberal Democratic Party, has vowed to continue his policies.

"With the rest of the Japanese people" he expressed his condolences to Mr Obuchi's family and friends. "Obuchi's hard work brought brighter prospects," he said.

Mr Obuchi, who was 62, died in Juntendo Hospital, Tokyo. He took office in 1998, and won praise for reviving Japan's economy after its worstrecession in 50 years. He issurvived by his wife, Chizuko, two daughters and a son.

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