Japan PM Abe considering visit to Iran as early as mid-June: NHK

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands during Zarif’s visit in Tokyo on May 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019
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Japan PM Abe considering visit to Iran as early as mid-June: NHK

  • ‘Our country has traditionally had friendly relations with Iran’
  • Japan was a major buyer of Iranian oil for decades before the sanctions

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering a visit to Iran as early as mid-June, NHK national television said on Friday, the first such trip in four decades, as global concern grows about rising tension between Iran and the United States.
The United States withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal with Iran, and is ratcheting up sanctions on the Middle East nation, aiming to strangle its economy by ending its international sales of crude oil.
The report on plans for the visit comes a week after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Japan and met Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
Abe is likely to discuss his plans with US President Donald Trump when the latter visits Japan from Saturday and a final decision may rest on the results of that, NHK said.
Asked about the state of preparations for such a visit, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied the report.
Asked if it would figure in discussions with Trump, he said only that the talks would be “wide-ranging.” He declined to comment directly on what Japan might be able to do, in the context of its friendly ties with both nations.
“Our country has traditionally had friendly relations with Iran,” he said, adding that Japan hoped to be able to contribute to peace and stability in the region.
Japan was a major buyer of Iranian oil for decades before the sanctions. No Japanese prime minister has visited Iran since 1978.
During his visit to Japan, Zarif said Iran was committed to its obligations under the international nuclear deal despite the US withdrawal from the landmark agreement. He called the reimposition of US sanctions “unacceptable.”
Iran also denies the Trump administration’s accusations of possible Iranian plots against the United States and its allies.


Israel’s Lieberman ‘not backing anyone for PM’

Updated 17 min 24 sec ago

Israel’s Lieberman ‘not backing anyone for PM’

  • Lieberman has insisted on a unity government between his party

JERUSALEM: Israeli ex-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday he will not endorse either Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz for prime minister following last week’s deadlocked elections.

Lieberman, who could potentially play a kingmaker role, spoke to journalists as President Reuven Rivlin began consulting political parties on who they will back for prime minister. Lieberman’s secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party won eight seats in the 120-seat Parliament in Tuesday’s election. A delegation from Lieberman’s secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party was due to meet Rivlin later on Sunday.

Yisrael Beitenu won eight seats in the 120-seat Parliament in Tuesday’s election.

Lieberman has insisted on a unity government between his party, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White. He said he could not for now back Netanyahu because he is willing to form a coalition with Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, which he accuses of seeking to impose religious law on the secular population.

Lieberman also said he could not back Gantz for now because he may reach a deal with either the ultra-Orthodox or Israel’s Arab parties, which he called “enemies.”