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Jul 23, 11:32 PM EDT

Abe denies abusing influence in Japan favoritism scandal

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TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has denied he misused his influence to help a friend in a growing favoritism scandal.

With support ratings for his scandal-laden Cabinet hitting new lows, Abe was questioned in Parliament on Monday over allegations he intervened to help his friend gain approval to open a new veterinary school in western Japan.

Abe said he only sought reforms for the sector and did not directly get involved in the decision on his friend's application. He said he learned of his friend Kotaro Kake's plans only after the application was filed this year.

Abe is expected to reshuffle his cabinet soon after seeing public approval sink following various scandals and his ruling Liberal Democrats' railroading of unpopular legislation.

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