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Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007

Time ripe for better ties: Iran envoy


Staff writer

A recent U.S. report that concluded with "high confidence" that Iran halted its nuclear arms program in 2003 offers a key opportunity to expand Japan-Iran ties, Iranian Ambassador to Japan Mohsen Talaei said.

"The affirmation of the use of peaceful nuclear energy in Iran was not unexpected," Talaei said in a recent interview in Tokyo. "I hope the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) report will create more realism in U.S. policies toward Iran. Naturally, our expectations from Japan, which has amicable relations with the U.S. and Iran, are also high."

Iran is hoping that Japan will resume investments in developing its oil fields. Japan withdrew from an agreement to develop the Azadegan oil field in western Iran, near the Iraqi border, in October 2006 under U.S. pressure.

"Iran and Japan have a complementary relationship. Iran is an energy exporter and Japan an important energy consumer. There is much ground for cooperation, especially in areas like security of energy supply and in working to create conditions for bringing back growth and prosperity to sensitive areas of the Middle East and Persian Gulf," Talaei said.

At the same time, however, he warned Japan not to let a third party like the U.S. hinder bilateral relations.

"In its relations with Japan, Iran is looking for the prevention of a third country's intervention in such relations," he said.

In response to a question about whether Japan's relationship with Iran is better or worse under current Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda compared with his predecessors, Talaei said Fukuda has deep knowledge of Iran and he expects bilateral relations to improve.

"Although relations have been somewhat affected due to the international situation, the basis of Iran-Japan relations is solid. Short-term developments cannot affect the importance of our long-term relationship. Now that the legitimacy of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities has been recognized, and considering the full cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, it's natural to expect a further expansion of Iran-Japan relations," Talaei said.



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