Japan PM sacks five ministers to win tax-plan backing

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda replaced five cabinet ministers on Monday hoping to smooth the way to a deal with the opposition on doubling sales tax in spite of a rift in the ruling party over the plan.
By removing the ministers, who the opposition has criticized for not performing properly, Noda hopes to persuade the biggest opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to back a package of tax bills including the sales tax increase.
He needs opposition support to bet bills through a divided parliament.
The increase in sales tax, which would bring it to 10 percent by 2015 from 5 percent now, is seen as essential in an effort to curb Japan's snowballing public debt.
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