Hata hints he might resign

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JAPAN'S Prime Minister, Tsutomu Hata, hinted yesterday that he might resign today to solve a two-month- long political deadlock that has paralysed his government since it was formed. A motion of no-confidence against his government was tabled in the Diet (parliament), and his party was engaged in frantic negotiations with the Socialist Party to prevent a dissolution of the Diet and new elections.

The 59-year-old Prime Minister, known as a 'Mister Nice Guy' in Japan's murky world of backroom agreements and money politics, expressed frustration at a news conference yesterday that inter-party factional squabbling was stopping the government from forming coherent policies on important domestic and international issues.

'Today we are in an extremely difficult situation,' Mr Hata said after the Diet finally passed this year's budget, nearly three months after the beginning of the financial year on 1 April. 'It is tremendously important to form a powerful government in order to get through this difficulty.'

Japan is struggling to extract its economy from recession, while overseas it faces the North Korean nuclear crisis and strong pressure from the US to reduce its trade surplus. But Mr Hata presides over a minority government that has been unable to make any new policies.