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Japan’s finance minister admitted Monday that official papers related to a favouritism scandal dogging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been altered, but denied any plans to step down over the row.

Abe’s government has faced mounting pressure in recent days over the 2016 sale of state-owned land to one of his supporters at a price well below market value.

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Speaking to reporters outside his office, the prime minister “deeply” apologised to the public for this “incident that could shake confidence” in government operations.

“I take people’s criticism sincerely and want Finance Minister (Taro) Aso to be responsible for pushing ahead with an investigation to fully reveal why this kind of incident happened,” added Abe.

Earlier Monday, Aso told a hastily arranged press conference:

“Changing official documents is very grave and extremely regrettable and I deeply apologise.

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“What is important is that these things don’t happen again,” Aso added.