Merkel invites new Japanese PM for talks

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Naoto Kan on becoming Japanese prime minister Friday and invited him for talks in Berlin, her office said.

In a letter to Kan, she said relations between the two countries had been marked for decades by "close and successful cooperation".

"The German government is counting on continuing this and building on it, bilaterally and also in multilateral forums such as the United Nations," she wrote.

"Thus I would be pleased to welcome you soon as my guest in Germany."

A parliamentary vote Friday confirmed the former finance minister as the successor to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who tearfully resigned this week after a row over a US air base on Okinawa island and money scandals.

Hatoyama had ended more than half a century of conservative rule in a stunning election win last August.

Kan, a former leftist activist, is Japan's fifth premier in four years, and the first in over a decade who does not hail from a political dynasty.

© 2010 AFP

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