Ozawa Scandal-hit and refuses to leave party

A split within Japans centre-left government deepened Thursday when veteran powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa rejected a demand by the prime minister to leave the party as he faces trial in a funding scandal.

Ozawa, dubbed the "Shadow Shogun" of Japanese politics, is the biggest faction boss in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan DPJ and narrowly failed in a bid last September to oust Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

He denies personal wrong-doing in the funding scandal, which has led authorities to raid his offices, indict three of his former aides and, forced by a citizens review panel, to indict Ozawa himself late last month.Kan — who is battling plunging opinion poll ratings and the threat of legislative gridlock in a split parliament — Thursday met 68-year-old Ozawa, who commands the loyalty of many first-time lawmakers he picked and coached.

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