Image: Takehiko Endo
Shizuo Kambayashi  /  AP
Japanese Agriculture Minister Takehiko Endo took office just last week.
updated 9/2/2007 10:24:24 AM ET 2007-09-02T14:24:24

Japan's new agriculture minister decided on Sunday to resign over the misuse of farm subsidies, Kyodo News agency reported, citing an unidentified ruling party official.

The resignation would deal a further blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, which suffered a humiliating electoral defeat in July following a string of scandals.

Agriculture Minister Takehiko Endo, who took office just last week in a Cabinet reshuffle, admitted on Saturday that a farm cooperative he headed had received $9,930 in government subsidies by exaggerating weather damage to the 1999 grape harvest.

Kyodo said Endo, who has already apologized for the scandal and quit as head of the cooperative, would hand in his resignation to Abe on Monday morning.

Phones rang unanswered at the Agriculture Ministry late Sunday.

The report of Endo's decision came as opposition lawmakers, emboldened by winning control of the upper house of parliament in July 29 elections, called for him to step down.

"Mr. Endo should resign, or we'll nail him down in parliament and file a censure motion," Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima said in a debate on public television NHK.

Widespread concern over scandals
Even the leader of the junior coalition partner in Abe's government criticized the widespread money scandals in the ruling party.

"It's pathetic that these problems seem endless," New Komeito leader Akihiro Ota said. "We must achieve a proper result, or it will only cause public distrust."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano said Endo's case is different from political funding scandals, but that he would "decide what to do" about it after seeking a further explanation from the minister. Kyodo reported they met later on Sunday.

Endo is the third agricultural minister to be embroiled in money scandals since May.

Former Agriculture Minister Norihiko Akagi resigned in August to take responsibility for the election defeat following an office accounting scandal. His predecessor, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, killed himself in May amid allegations he misused public money.

Two other money scandals emerged Saturday, both involving lawmakers from Abe's party.

Vice Foreign Minister Yukiko Sakamoto acknowledged her support group faked funding reports in 2004-2005 by entering fictitious lecture costs. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Mitsuhide Iwaki said he mistakenly reported fundraising ticket sales as political donations.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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