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Diplomacy About Iran's Nuclear Program Shifts from Moscow to Tokyo


Iran's foreign minister has arrived in Japan for talks expected to focus on easing concerns over the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions. Manouchehr Mottaki's three-day visit begins a day after Iran and Russia announced an agreement to establish a joint uranium enrichment venture, in the hopes of averting United Nations sanctions.

Japanese officials say Foreign Minister Taro Aso will tell his Iranian counterpart that Tehran should suspend its production of enriched uranium, which can be used for producing nuclear weapons.

Japan supports the proposal for Iran to enrich uranium in Russia, but officials here say it is not clear whether, as a result of the deal between Moscow and Tehran, Iran has agreed to entirely give up enrichment at home.

Aso has said he will press the Iranian foreign minister, for details of the Iranian-Russian agreement.

Aso, speaking Monday to lawmakers, said that if international sanctions are imposed on Tehran, it will be difficult for Japan to press ahead with a huge oil project in southern Iran.

The Azadegan oil field is said to be the world's second biggest single oil repository and Japan has committed $1 billion to develop it, despite objections from its key security partner - the United States.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, is to meet March 6th to discuss the Iranian nuclear situation.

Iran faces the possibility of sanctions by the international community after Tehran resumed enriching uranium. That came after the atomic agency decided to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for violating agreements.

Japan has not been a major player in the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. But Tokyo has considerable influence in Tehran because of long-standing friendly business ties. In particular, Japan relies on Iran for much of its imported oil.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is intended solely to generate electricity. But the United States and many European nations have expressed strong concern that Iran is actually working on a secret nuclear weapons program.

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