Iran Nuclear NewsJapan says shares concerns on Iran nuclear drive

Japan says shares concerns on Iran nuclear drive

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ImageAFP: Japan said on Saturday it shared the concerns of world powers over Iran's controversial nuclear programme and urged the Islamic republic to take "positive" steps towards resolving the dispute.

ImageTEHRAN (AFP) — Japan said on Saturday it shared the concerns of world powers over Iran's controversial nuclear programme and urged the Islamic republic to take "positive" steps towards resolving the dispute.

"Japan voices common concerns of the international community on Iran's nuclear issue and wants the issue to be solved based on UN resolutions," Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone told a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki.

"I frankly said that in order to have progress on the 5-plus-1 negotiations, the Iranian side must take positive steps," he said of Britain, Russia, France, China, the United States and Germany which have shown an interest in talks to to resolve the nuclear dispute.

However Mottaki brushed off Nakasone, saying Tehran's nuclear programme was similar to Tokyo's.

"I told my counterpart that Japan had spent years in building trust over its nuclear activity and we are doing the same thing. Over all these years, nobody asked Japan to freeze or suspend its activity," he said.

"Iran's nuclear programme is legal and peaceful. It should be looked at in the same way as Japan's nuclear activity is looked at."

Global powers led by Washington suspect Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at making atomic weapons, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.

In a bid to resolve the dispute, the administration of US President Barack Obama has extended a diplomatic hand to Tehran which saw the 5-plus-1 take the initiative to hold talks aimed at halting Iran's uranium enrichment project.

This process lies at the heart of the controversy as it can be used to produce electricity as well as the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Iran, already labouring under three sets of UN sanctions, has refused to negotiate if it first has to suspend uranium enrichment.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that if dialogue fails to stop Iran, Washington would be prepared to adopt tough new sanctions.

Nakasone on Saturday urged Tehran to take advantage of Obama's overtures.

"The government of Obama is seriously pursuing dialogue with Iran and Iran without wasting time must take steps in this direction," he said.

But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an interview broadcast last week, said Iran was not yet ready to talk to the United States unconditionally.

"We should just have a clear-cut framework for talks," he said.

Ahmadinejad later said that Tehran was ready for "constructive dialogue" with world powers and promised to present new proposals in this regard to the 5-plus-1.

He said the package was a new version of proposals offered by Iran in May 2008, which proposed forming consortiums to enrich uranium and manufacture nuclear fuel, including in Iran.

In a rare policy break with Washington, Tokyo has maintained cordial ties with Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the pro-Western shah.

In 2006, however, Japan pulled out of a project to develop Iran's biggest oil field of Azadegan because of concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Nakasone on Saturday also expressed concern about the fate of US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, jailed for eight years on charges of spying for the United States.

"Since her mother is Japanese… from a humanitarian perspective, we are following the case with concern," he told reporters.

Mottaki said Saberi had violated Iranian laws.

"Ms Saberi, like any Iranian who violates the regulations, has been prosecuted," Mottaki said. "But in her case an appeal has been made and the appeal will be looked at with justice and compassion."

Both countries on Saturday also pledged to work together to help stabilise war-ravaged Afghanistan, Iran's eastern neighbour.

A joint statement issued after the news conference said the two will focus their efforts on "anti-drug trafficking and border control" and "enhancing the capacity of the Afghan border police."

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