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Iran foreign minister in Japan for nuclear talks
Updated: 2006-02-27 14:57

Japan will urge Iran to ease international concerns over its nuclear ambitions in order to avert United Nations sanctions during a three-day visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Mottaki arrived in Tokyo on Monday, a day after news that Iran had reached a "basic" agreement with Russia on jointly enriching uranium.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who was set to meet Mottaki later on Monday, said he would press his counterpart for details of the deal, which did not make clear whether Tehran would suspend enrichment inside Iran.

"Iran has been carrying on secretly defying the IAEA ( International Atomic Energy Agency) and losing international credibility. We need to have thorough talks," Aso told the parliament, referring to Tehran's uranium enrichment-related activities.

With time running out for Iran to avoid formal referral to the U.N. Security Council at a March 6 board meeting of the IAEA, Japan hopes to persuade Iran -- its third-largest oil supplier -- to stop producing enriched uranium, which can be used for nuclear weapons.

Tehran denies trying to develop nuclear arms, saying it is only seeking atomic energy to meet the demands of its growing economy.

Japan, which imports about 15 percent of its crude oil from Iran, or some 500,000 barrels a day, has kept up good ties with the Islamic Republic, and Japanese officials have said this gives Tokyo a unique role to play in defusing the tensions.

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