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Japan's premier accepted the resignation of the country's finance minister Shoichi
Japan's premier accepted the resignation of the country's finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa on Tuesday, after his unusual behavior at a G7 press conference in Rome at the weekend led to speculation he was drunk.

Nakagawa, who has denied being drunk, caused a political storm after slurring his words and appearing to be drowsy during the press conference on Saturday. He claimed that he had been suffering from jet lag and taken too much cold medicine, and although he admitted that "he had been sipping wine during lunch," he brushed aside speculation he was drunk.

Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose popularity has plummeted to an all-time low of 9.7%, said he would respect Nakagawa's "tough decision" to resign and planned to appoint the Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano, 70, to take on the role as finance minister.

Earlier Nakagawa, 55, said he would step down after the country's budget for 2009 had been adopted by parliament, however, amid mounting pressure from the opposition, Japan's Kyodo News cited him as saying "it would be difficult for an early passage of the budget and related bills in the current situation," and he made the decision to resign immediately "for the benefit of the nation."

Nakagawa said that the prime minister did not try to talk him into staying. He told journalists that his doctor had diagnosed that he was "suffering from a cold and fatigue."

The minister's bizarre behavior was first picked up during a lunch meeting with Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin prior to the press conference, when Nakagawa started referring to the premier as simply "minister."

The resignation by one of the prime minister's closest allies along with Taro Aso's falling popularity ahead of general elections due to be held in the fall, could mean the end of the road for the already struggling government as Japan posted its worst quarterly performance for around 35 years on Monday amid the global financial crisis.


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