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Still No Accord on Japan Gov’t.

January 12, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s ruling party and a major opposition group bickered over the country’s role in U.N. military operations Tuesday, further dimming hopes for a coalition government.

The governing Liberal Democratic Party and opposition Liberal Party need to seal an agreement this week if they are to meet their goal of forming a coalition government before Parliament convenes Jan. 19.

Negotiations were held up over Liberal Party demands to expand Japan’s role in U.N. military operations. The talks have been closely monitored in business circles because a deal could help facilitate passage of bills to revive Japan’s economy.

Talks went late into the night Tuesday without a breakthrough; neither side offered significant compromises.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said he still hoped for an agreement but ruled out any concessions that contravene Japan’s pacifist constitution.

``We must be firm on the areas where we can make concessions, and areas where we can’t, based on the constitution,″ he said.

Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa said an agreement on Japan’s security role was a ``precondition″ to a coalition deal.

``It’s up to the LDP,″ said Liberal Party spokesman Hiro Araki. ``If there’s no agreement on the security problem, there will be no coalition.″

The Liberal Party wants to allow Japan’s Self Defense Forces to be able to provide medical aid to combat areas during multinational military missions. It also wants a clearer definition of Japan’s responsibilities under updated U.S.-Japan security guidelines.

The ruling party fears the Liberal Party’s proposals would go against Japan’s constitution, which prohibits the country from participating in missions that use force to settle international disputes.

The Liberal Democratic Party does not hold a majority in Parliament. While a deal with the Liberals would not give it a majority, it hopes to coalition would draw independents to its side.

The two sides agreed Tuesday on a proposal to reduce the number of civil servants by 25 percent within 10 years, one several concessions made by the ruling party to Liberals’ attempts to streamline government.

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