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It was not clear, however, how many of those who signed the petition want to ditch Aso.

Aso has made it clear he has no intention of resigning and a majority of lawmakers at the meeting would be needed to bring forward a vote for the party leadership set for September.

Only a handful of lawmakers have openly called for Aso to resign.

Although there are potential alternatives within the party, including Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe, analysts say a last-minute change of leadership ahead of the election would do little to boost the party's fortunes."Among those who signed the petition, there are some who want to change the party leader, while there are also opinions that we need to review the outcome of the Tokyo election," former prime minister Yoshiro Mori told a television programme Thursday.

"Some also want to have a place to discuss the manifesto." TOKYO, July 16 (Reuters): Pressure mounted on Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso Thursday after ruling party lawmakers called for a meeting to debate the party's ailing fortunes at which his harshest critics are expected to seek his resignation.