New Japan PM Fukuda apologises over fund reports

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TOKYO, Sep 28 (Reuters) Japan's new prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, today apologised but denied wrongdoing after a newspaper reported that his office had altered the names of political support groups on receipts for donations, Kyodo news agency said.

Fukuda, 71, was chosen prime minister this week to succeed Shinzo Abe, who quit suddenly after a year in office marred by scandals over political funds and gaffes among his ministers that contributed to a July election rout.

''This was bad paperwork. As the person ultimately responsible, I feel deeply ashamed,'' Kyodo news agency quoted Fukuda as telling reporters. But he added that the changes were not done to make gains nor were they illegal.

The Asahi newspaper reported that at least 17 receipts for donations worth a total of about 50,000 dollars had been altered by Fukuda's office.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) tapped Fukuda, a seasoned moderate, in hopes of reviving their fortunes after Abe's abrupt resignation and the party's humiliating defeat in a July upper house election.

Fukuda's new cabinet won public support rates of close to 60 per cent in media opinion polls published this week from voters keen to see political stability after recent upsets.

But he faces a rough time in parliament, where the main opposition Democratic Party and its small allies now control the upper house and can delay legislation.

Abe, 53, also enjoyed support rates of 60 per cent when he took office last year, but saw his popularity eroded by scandals and gaffes that cost him five cabinet ministers -- including one who committed suicide -- and public anger over mishandling of the public pension system.

REUTERS SG BD1055

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