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Japan Begins Search for New PM After Fukuda's Resignation

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has begun the process of selecting a successor to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda after his surprise resignation.

Party leaders met Tuesday morning to discuss a schedule for electing a new party president, who is all but assured of becoming the country's next prime minister.

LDP Secretary-General and former Foreign Minister Taro Aso is seen as a frontrunner. Aso, who narrowly lost to Mr. Fukuda in last year's race for prime minster, has not said if he will run.

Mr. Fukuda announced his resignation on Monday, after less than a year in office. He said late Monday that Japan needs new leadership to face parliament when it opens September 12.

The prime minister has had low approval ratings since taking office last September. The opposition-controlled upper house of parliament has blocked many of his promised reforms.

Opposition parties are likely to continuing pressing for early elections for Japan's powerful lower house of parliament, but the LDP has so far resisted.

The 72-year-old Mr. Fukuda became Japan's prime minister after his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, abruptly resigned last year, citing health reasons.

Mr. Abe also spent less than a year in office. He stepped down after a series of corruption scandals rocked his Cabinet.

Mr. Fukuda replaced many of the old Cabinet members last month to try to revive his popularity and Japan's economy. But the move did little to boost his public approval ratings.

His resignation comes just days after he unveiled a multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus package.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.