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Monday, 20 November, 2000, 08:34 GMT
Profile: Yoshiro Mori
Mori
Yoshiro Mori: Known for verbal gaffes
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori is one of Japan's most unpopular leaders in years.

His standing has been eroded by a string of gaffes and cabinet scandals and doubts over his economic policies.

When he took office in April, Mr Mori, 63, was seen as a safe pair of hands to guide the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) through to the next election.

Mori
Yoshiro Mori appears to have few health worries
But reports say he is now described in political circles as having "the heart of a flea and the brain of a shark".

Disapproval ratings soared last year after he was accused of jeopardising diplomatic talks with North Korea by revealing secret strategies to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He was further undermined when his close confidant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa, quit amid a scandal over an affair and links to a right-wing group.

Obuchi

The burly rugby-playing Mr Mori came to power after his predecessor Keizo Obuchi died from a stroke.

Obuchi
Keizo Obuchi: Died after a stroke
A close ally of Mr Obuchi, Mr Mori was head of one of the main factions in the LDP and had a wide network of contacts spanning its coalition partners.

He had served in a number of cabinet posts, including a year as trade minister, although he had never held the key foreign or finance portfolios.

Mr Mori stirred up a storm of controversy within weeks of taking office when he described Japan as a "divine country" centred on the emperor.

Opposition parties said the remark was a dangerous throwback to the imperial era, when belief in the country's divinity fuelled militarism and aggression.

Gaffes

But Mr Mori's reputation for putting his foot in his mouth was already well known.

In January, he had come under fire from Aids campaigners when speaking about his first election campaign in 1969.

"When I was greeting farmers from my car, they all went into their homes. I felt like I had Aids," he said. Mr Mori later apologised for the comment.

And in February, he caused further embarrassment when describing security problems the United States faced from the Y2K computer bug.

"When there is a blackout, the murderers always come out. It's that type of society," Mr Mori quipped.

Scandal

Born in 1937 to a family of wealthy rice farmers in the rural Ishikawa Prefecture, Mr Mori followed his father and grandfather into politics - each served in local government.

After graduating from Tokyo's prestigious Waseda University with a commerce degree, he spent two years reporting for the conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper before being elected to the lower house of parliament in 1969.

In 1989, his political career floundered when he was implicated in a stocks-for-favours scandal that toppled Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita.

Mr Mori made more than $950,000 by selling pre-flotation Recruit Cosmos shares after they were made public.

Four years later, he denied allegations that he had offered money to silence a rightist group bent on criticising the former prime minister.

Mr Mori and his wife Chieko have a son, Yuuki, 35, and a daughter, Yoko Fujimoto, 31. He is still an active sportsman and turns out for government rugby and soccer teams.

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27 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mori: The gaffe-prone leader
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