Japan PM, opposition leader to meet Monday
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Ichiro Ozawa, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, were to meet Monday for talks after the Democrats threatened to stall debate in the divided parliament, media said.
Ozawa, 66, jolted the political scene last year by discussing a possible "grand coalition" with then-prime minister Yasuo Fukuda as a way to break through the deadlock in parliament, reported Reuters.
Ozawa offered to quit after his party rejected the idea, but DPJ lawmakers begged him to stay to avoid rupturing the group.
Kyodo news agency said that the Democratic Party had requested a meeting, saying they wanted to call for a second extra budget to be submitted to the current session of parliament.
A ruling party executive that a meeting would take place at 6:00 p.m. (0900 GMT)
The Democrats had said that if the meeting did not take place, they could decide not vote on a bill to extend Japan's naval mission in support of U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan in a parliamentary committee in the upper house.
The mission was halted for months late last year because the opposition-dominated upper house of parliament, many of whose members say it breaches Japan's post-war pacifist constitution, sat on the bill for weeks.
Democrats appeared likely at first to vote swiftly on the bill this year, hoping that its enactment would clear the way for Aso to call an early election for the parliament's more powerful lower house.
But Aso has since shied from calling an election, saying he wanted to put priority on shielding the economy from the global financial crisis. Political analysts have said Aso, whose popularity has slipped since he took office in September, was wary of calling an election that his ruling bloc might well lose.
A survey by broadcast TV Asahi released Monday showed that support for cabinet has slid below one-third of voters, down 13.2 points from last month.