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September 15, 2009

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Hatoyama meets Aso ahead of house vote

JAPAN'S likely next prime minister held brief talks yesterday with the country's outgoing leader ahead of this week's parliament vote to usher in the new government.

It was the first time the two had met since Yukio Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan trounced Taro Aso's Liberal Democratic Party in elections last month.

Aso, whose party has governed Japan for most of the past 50 years, warned Hatoyama "not to steer Japan in the wrong direction."

Parliament is scheduled to meet in a special session tomorrow to formally elect a prime minister to replace Aso. Hatoyama was virtually assured of being selected because the Democrats now have 308 of the powerful lower house's 480 seats.

The two discussed crisis management and other transition issues at their meeting, Democratic Party spokesman Toshiaki Oikawa said.

Hatoyama asked Aso to provide "advice and cooperation from his experience as prime minister," and the outgoing leader wished him luck, public broadcaster NHK and the Kyodo News agency reported.

Later, Hatoyama met with party heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa to finalize his Cabinet and key party posts, expected to be announced today at a meeting of party lawmakers.

Katsuya Okada, a party veteran who has never held a Cabinet post, is widely expected to be named foreign minister. He would be tasked with implementing Hatoyama's campaign promise of forging closer ties with Asian countries while keeping the United States as the "cornerstone" of Japan's foreign policy.

Naoto Kan, who served as health minister in 1996, is expected to head the new National Strategy Bureau, which will oversee strategic and economic policy.


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