Support for Japan PM Fukuda close to 60 pct -poll

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TOKYO, Oct 10 (Reuters) Almost 60 percent of Japanese voters support new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, many of them saying his air of stability appeals to them, a newspaper poll showed today.

In a poll carried out by the Yomiuri Shimbun on October 6-7, almost two weeks after he was picked to replace Shinzo Abe, 59.1 percent of respondents said they supported Fukuda.

More than half of those polled said they wanted Fukuda, a seasoned moderate, to stay in office for two years or more, the Yomiuri said.

Abe abruptly stepped down last month after a year in office, battered by a series of scandals and gaffes among cabinet members that had sent his support rates sliding below 30 per cent.

Support for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) rose sharply to 38 percent from about 29 per cent in the previous poll a month ago, the paper said.

Support for the main opposition Democratic Party, which with its smaller allies won control of parliament's upper house in a July election, slipped to 18 per cent from almost 21 per cent in the previous poll.

Almost half the respondents said they agreed with the LDP's plan to continue a naval refuelling operation in the Indian Ocean supporting US-led military operations in and around Afghanistan.

The mission is set to expire on November 1. Just over 49 per cent supported extending it, while 37 percent were opposed, the paper said.

The Democrats have vowed to oppose extending the mission, which they say violates Japan's pacifist constitution because it does not have an official United Nations mandate.

Reuters TB VP0712

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