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Sep 12, 2007 at 05:09pm IST

Japan PM Abe shocks world, announces resignation

Tokyo: Embattled Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, struggling after a bashing at the polls and suffering low support rates, told a news conference on Wednesday that he was resigning.

The hawkish 52-year-old Abe took office just one year ago promising to boost Japan's global security profile and pursue economic reforms and growth.

His popularity had taken a beating over the past few months after a series of financial scandals involving his cabinet ministers.

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party also suffered a humiliating defeat in the July elections and lost control of the parliament's upper house.

He said his resignation would give the country a better chance to garner support for US military operations in Afghanistan. The prime minister had earlier said that he would step down if parliament failed to extend a Japanese naval mission to support US operations in Afghanistan.

Abe is expected to stay on in a caretaker role until a successor is chosen from the party, but most probably, Abe's ally and Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party, Taro Aso, is expected to take over from him.

Meanwhile, the yen and the stock market slipped on concerns about the political uncertainty in the nation.

Abe In India

Abe had visited India in August this year for a hectic round of consultations with the Indian Government.

Both Abe and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were looking forward to investment and enhancing economic opportunities between the two nations.

In fact, India was hoping for a strong statement of support from Abe at the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The two countries were also on the verge of formalising a proposal for Japan to invest $90 billion in an industrial corridor from Delhi to Mumbai.

Abe wanted India to address issues relating "rules of origin and tariffs" to facilitate the early signing of an Economic Partnership Agreement — which Indian officials had hoped would be completed by mid-2008.

However, with him announcing his resignation, all plans will now go into limbo and India will have to start a round of fresh talks with the new government.

Abe, an advocate of tighter ties with Washington and a bigger say for Japan in world affairs, was elected Japan's prime minister by parliament on September 26, 2006, becoming, at 52, the youngest Japanese leader since World War II.

(With inputs from agencies)

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