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Japan Takes Diplomatic Role in Iran Nuclear Issue


Japan says it hopes to use a long-standing relationship with Iran to help avert a crisis over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. The announcement came after key members of the United Nations Security Council failed to agree on a response to Iran's resumption of uranium enrichment.

Japan is hoping one-on-one diplomacy can lead to a breakthrough that has eluded other nations concerning Iran's insistence on proceeding with its nuclear research.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tomohiko Taniguchi, told reporters Tuesday that the Japanese government has been sending a message to Tehran about the issue.

"The Japanese government has been closely in touch with Iran, and told them a number of times that you should stop doing the kind of things that you want to do, namely, to resume the process of enriching uranium," he said.

Government sources here, who did not want to be identified, told VOA News that Foreign Minister Taro Aso is planning to call his counterpart in Tehran within the next couple of days. Japanese officials regard Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, as a relative moderate and a known quantity. He served as ambassador to Japan in the mid-1990s, and was friendly with then-prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Iran insists it is only interested in developing a civil nuclear energy program, but the United States and the European Union fear it is seeking to build nuclear weapons.

Iran and Japan have extensive trade ties. Iran provides Japan with nearly 20 percent of its crude oil, and Japan is one of Iran's top commercial partners.

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Taniguchi says despite that economic relationship, Japan's patience will not last if Iran insists on going ahead with its nuclear program.

"If things continue to go as they have in terms of the resumption of their attempt to enrich uranium, the Japanese government views the situation that bringing the issue to the U.N. Security Council is inevitable," added Taniguchi.

His comments came after Britain, France and Germany, along with the United States, China, and Russia, held an emergency meeting in London Monday to discuss the Iranian issue. But diplomats said Tuesday there was no agreement on whether to refer the matter to the Security Council for possible sanctions.

Britain, France and Germany on Monday did say they would press for an emergency meeting of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency on February 2.

However, Russia and China, which also have close commercial ties with Iran, have so far resisted attempts to involve the United Nations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan on Tuesday indicated that Beijing is in favor of continued negotiations with Iran, rather than sanctions.

Kong says China hopes all parties concerned will do their utmost to resume negotiations.

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