Japanese Prime Minister resigns to avoid `political vacuum'

Japan's chronically unpopular prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, suddenly announced his resignation after less than a year in office Monday, throwing the world's second-largest economy into political confusion. Fukuda, in a hastily arranged evening news conference, said he was stepping down to avoid a "political vacuum" as the deeply troubled government heads into a special parliamentary session later in the month. The 72-year-old leader made the announcement just days after unveiling 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) in fresh spending to shore up the flagging economy. Inflation has spiked to its highest in nearly 11 years, hurting consumer spending. "I felt that we must particularly stress the importance of the economy," Fukuda said in the nationally televised address. "If it will help even a little bit to make the parliamentary session go smoother, I decided that it might be better for someone other than me to be in the lead."