By ERIC TALMADGE
TOKYO, Apr 3 (AP)
After keeping the crisis from the public for nearly a full day, a senior Cabinet minister said Monday that Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi was in a coma following a stroke and he had taken over as Japan�s acting premier.
Obuchi, 62, was in a coma and required an artificial respirator Mon
day after being admitted at Tokyo�s Juntendo University Hospital early Sunday. He was under intensive care, Chief Cabinet secretary Mikio Aoki said.
Aoki, who has assumed the position of acting prime minister, said Obuchi�s condition was extremely severe and he was not likely to be able to resume his duties soon. Aoki said Obuchi�s condition deteriorated shortly after they met in the hospital Sunday. Obuchi was at that time able to personally request Aoki assume leadership.
Officials stressed after an emergency Cabinet meeting that Obuchi�s illness would not bring any immediate change in policy. Obuchi�s ruling party continues to be firmly in control.
Taichi Sakaiya, head of Japan�s Economic Planning Agency, said economic policies remained solid.
�It is not possible that (Obuchi�s illness) will have an impact on economic policies,� he said.
But concerns were raised that, if prolonged, Obuchi�s absence could hinder Japan�s ability to host the G-8 summit of the world�s leading industrialized countries this summer. It could also intensify jockeying for power ahead of parliamentary elections, which must be held before October.
Newspapers were already speculating on who might succeed Obuchi. Two politicians named were Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Yoshiro Mori.
Of more concern to many, however, was the government�s failure to disclose the crisis sooner. �Why did they hide the crisis?� said a headline in the Asahi, one of Japan�s major newspapers.
Obuchi�s illness was not announced until 22 hours after he was admitted to the hospital. Aoki�s initial announcement Sunday night lasted only four minutes, and he refused to provide details on what had happened to Obuchi.
His second news conference, early Monday, lasted less than 15 minutes and offered little more.
ALMATY, April 3
�Increased prices of oil pipeline and railway transportation negatively affect our interests, as we are selling oil at the same price as before,� the Vice-President of the China National Petrol Corporation (CNPC), which owns 50% of shares in JV Aktobemunaigas (AMG), announced on Monday in Almaty.
U Yaoven said they were going to negotiate with Kaztransoil and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy on this issue.
In the last year the AMG administration took an unpopular decision: to dismiss 1,700 workers. The decision was discussed by society and resulted in an investigation at local and central levels.
Mr. U Yaoven explained the decision to reduce the staff as part of the company�s efforts to decrease cost of oil, as it had significantly fallen during that period.
�We were protecting the company from possible bankruptcy. Moreover, we did not break any laws, as according to the contract, the minimum term before which we could not dismiss the personnel passed in December 1998,� he emphasised.
Currently, according to the CNPC Vice-President, �we have a mutual understanding with the Kazakhstan party.� After negotiations, the corporation and the Aktyubinsk oblast Akimat signed a memorandum of co-operation between the CNPC and the oblast, outlining 10 intentions. He said, the memorandum �evaluated the corporation�s activities according to the purchase and sale contract and the contract for hydrocarbons.�
According to U Yaoven, the memorandum was highly valued by the Prime Minister Tokaev.
�If there are no major crises in the future, we will not reduce our staff any further,� he added.
U Yaoven said that this year AMG�s investments would total US$120 million, and that the company planned to increase oil production to 2.5 million tons.
�The government of Kazakhstan granted us an export quota of 500,000 tons. The Cabinet of Ministers is also ready to consider increasing of quotas up to 1 million tons, yet the final volume and form have not yet been determined,� the CNPC Vice-President said.
This year 500,000 tons of oil are to be supplied to the Pavlodar refinery. However, �the cost was comparatively low, and according to the shares sale-purchase contract, we can cancel the deal if it is unprofitable,� U Yaoven said.
�Due to problems with Russian Customs, for the time being we have not realised the projected export quota of 125,000 tons. Now the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Trade is asking the Russian government to settle the issue as soon as possible,� he said.
According to the agreement, the AMG is supplying oil to the Orsk refinery in Russia through the only pipeline in Aktobe. To increase efficiency, as well as to reduce the transport price, Siberian oil would be delivered to China through the oil substitute line from the AMG via Russia, U Yaoven announced.
In 1997 Kazakhstan and China signed a number of agreements for the construction of a Western Kazakhstan � Western China oil pipeline and for the rehabilitation of the Uzen oilfield. A joint technical-economic feasibility study was completed in October 1999, which stated that the volume of oil transported through the pipeline should not be less than 20 million tons per year.
�Kazakhstan has not guaranteed this volume, but the CNPC and the Chinese government have never announced they would hold up the project,� he stressed.
NB: the CNPC is one of the biggest oil and gas companies in China with registered capital of 114.9 billion yuan and assets worth 500 billion yuan. The CNPC was established in 1998. It possesses share equities in 100 companies in China, as well as abroad.
In 2000, with China being the biggest oil importer, it is expected to import up to 44 million tons, according to forecasts. In 2010 this figure may rise to 100 million tons per year.
All Over the Globe is published by IPA House.
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