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Japanese FM Quits Over Illegal Campaign Donation

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara speaks during a press conference to announce his resignation from the post at Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, March 6, 2011

Japan's foreign minister abruptly quit Sunday, after admitting he received an illegal $600 campaign donation in 2008 from a foreign national.

Seiji Maehara was foreign minister for just six months, and was seen as a leading candidate to succeed embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

In an apology to the Japanese people Sunday, the 48-year-old Maehara said he regretted causing "mistrust" despite what he called "his pledge to seek clean politics."

Maehara's admission is widely seen as undermining the prime minister's promise to root out "money politics," following a political fundraising scandal by a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, Ichiro Ozawa.

Japanese law prohibits foreign campaign donations to Japanese candidates. Maehara said Friday that his campaign took a $610 donation in 2008 from an ethnic Korean woman he has known for years who runs a barbecue restaurant in Kyoto.

Maehara said he did not know about the donation at the time, but took responsibility for it.He said he would return the money.