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JAPANESE COURT GIVES BLESSING TO MARRIAGE PLANS

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The Japanese court blessed Crown Prince Naruhito's plans to marry a career diplomat Tuesday but said the future emperor might never have wed had it not imposed a media blackout on his long search for a bride.

"The marriage of the crown prince to Masako Owada has been approved . . . and I am very happy to announce this very auspicious engagement," said Grand Steward Shoichi Fujimori, head of the imperial household, in a nationally televised news conference."The emperor regards her as a suitable candidate for crown princess and is overjoyed at the news," he said.

The palace, which had refused to comment on the planned marriage since news leaked two weeks ago, broke its silence after a meeting early Tuesday of the 10-member Imperial Household Council.

This body, headed by Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and including courtiers and government and parliamentary leaders, convened to approve the prince's choice.

The 29-year-old Masako, daughter of Vice Foreign Minister Hisashi Owada, will become the first career woman and only the second commoner to marry an heir to the ancient Chrysanthemum Throne.

Her future mother-in-law, Empress Michiko, is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist.

Grand Steward Fujimori, in a rare disclosure of the events leading up to a royal engagement, said Masako had been ready to turn down Naruhito's proposal and had yielded only after eight months of pressure from the palace and the prince himself.