Pressure is mounting on embattled Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to sack Agricultural Minister Tsutomu Takebe in the wake of a mad-cow disease scandal. In a just-released report, a government panel accused the Agriculture Ministry of failing to heed warnings that could have prevented last year's outbreak of the disease, which cost the food industry more than $100 million in lost sales.
Koizumi has rejected demands for Takebe's ouster. But with his rating down to 40% from 70% several months ago, the Prime Minister may have to bow to pressure. "Takebe should take political responsibility," says Naoto Kan, secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady