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The BBC's Charles Scanlon reports
"Mr Mori is also facing calls for his own resignation"
 real 56k

Friday, 27 October, 2000, 04:13 GMT 05:13 UK
New blow for Japanese Government
Yoshiro Mori and Hidenao Nakagawa
Prime Minister Mori (left) has been embarrassed by Nakagawa's predicament
A senior minister in the embattled government of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has resigned following allegations over a mistress, drugs and connections with right-wing extremists.

Chief cabinet secretary Hidenao Nakagawa was the prime minister's top aide who also served as chief government spokesman.

A Japanese tabloid weekly has published allegations that Mr Nakagawa had contacts with a senior figure in an extreme right-wing group, the Japan Youth Federation, as well as lurid details about an alleged extramarital affair.

BBC Tokyo correspondent Charles Scalon says the resignation is being seen as an attempt to relieve pressure on Mr Mori, whose weak administration has been dogged by scandal since its formation in April.

Although the minister has denied most of the charges, he has appeared to accept some culpability.

Last week he made a statement to parliament admitting he was "no saint". Now he says he is stepping down to avoid further trouble.

Mori pressure

Mr Mori himself has been under fire over remarks he made about Japanese citizens allegedly kidnapped by North Korea.

He suggested that they could save face by having the missing people turn up in a third country - evidence of gross diplomatic ineptitude, according to Mr Mori's critics.

Earlier this week the Japanese magazine Focus published a photograph of the woman sitting on a bed that it said belonged to Mr Nakagawa.

The minister said he was not present at the time, and said the allegation was a matter for his family.

Tabloids have also accused him of allegedly tipping her off about being the subject of a police narcotics investigation and using a false name in a document for an abortion.

Mr Mori's support rating has dropped to 23% in October, another five points lower than in September, according to a poll in the newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

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See also:

27 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mori: The gaffe-prone leader
23 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan urged closer to N Korea
22 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
South Korean leader visits Japan
06 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan boosts N Korea food aid
02 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fresh blow for Japan PM
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