AFP: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday promised US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to support efforts to prevent Iran from building an atom bomb, despite his country’s close trade ties with Tehran, an aide said. TOKYO, Oct 19, 2006 (AFP) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday promised US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to support efforts to prevent Iran from building an atom bomb, despite his country’s close trade ties with Tehran, an aide said.
Rice brought up the Iranian issue with Abe during talks in Tokyo, her first stop on a four-nation tour focused on North Korea, which last week said it tested its first atom bomb.
“Japan and Iran have a relation in crude oil, but that is not something that would affect efforts to prevent their nuclear development,” Abe told Rice, according to the Japanese premier’s aide Hiroshige Seko who was present.
“I want to continue dialogue with the US side on the matter,” Abe said, as quoted by Seko.
Iran has insisted on its right to enrich uranium, which also has peaceful uses, leading to Western fears it is moving closer to building an atomic bomb.
“Secretary of State said it is important to prevent Iran from moving to a situation like North Korea,” Seko said.
Rice called on Japan to join efforts in pressing Iran including “in the field of international finance,” Seko said.
She made a similar appeal in a meeting Wednesday with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso.
The US Treasury Department has blacklisted one of Iran’s largest banks, Bank Saderat, for allegedly transferring money to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other extremist organizations.
The United States last year also slapped sanctions on a North Korean-linked bank, a move that led the communist state to storm out of six-nation talks on ending its nuclear program.
Japan, the world’s second largest economy, is almost entirely dependent on the Middle East for its oil and imports about 15 percent of its total oil consumption from Iran.
Japan in 2004 defied the United States, its closest ally, by signing a two billion-dollar deal to develop Iran’s largest onshore oil field.
But as sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program look increasingly likely, Japan this month slashed its stake in the Azadegan project to 10 percent from the originally agreed 75 percent.