Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Friday said he had decided to step down due to worsening health conditions, and said he apologized to citizens from the bottom of his heart for not being able to fulfill his duties.

Iran Press/Asia: Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Friday said he had decided to step down due to worsening health conditions, and said he apologized to citizens from the bottom of his heart for not being able to fulfill his duties.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, said it was not up to him to decide on his successor, comments that highlight the brewing scramble to replace him from within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Abe has visited a hospital twice over the past two weeks, fuelling speculation that his health has deteriorated.

This is the second time that Abe is to leave the post over a medical issue -- stepping down in 2007, because of his inflammatory bowel disease, after only serving a year in office.

He returned to the top job in 2012 after a landslide election win in the Lower House. This seven-year tenure makes him Japan's longest-serving leader ever.

Abe could have served one more year in office. His term as president of the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party would have run out in September next year.

Tokyo Stock Exchange has fallen by 2 percent following the news of Abe's resignation.

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