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Asian nations want Iran to abide by IAEA: Japan

The closed-door talks came as Iran said it would resume uranium enrichment even before IAEA meets next month.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 17:05 IST

Asian nations want Iran to abide by international resolutions on its nuclear programme and want North Korea to return to negotiations, a Japanese official said on Monday after 14-nation talks in Tokyo.

Diplomats handling nuclear issues from across Asia and the United States attended the Tokyo meeting, but the talks were marred by the absence of China, whose relations are tense with Japan.

The closed-door talks came as Iran, in its latest defiant statement, said it would resume uranium enrichment even before the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meets next month.

"Iran should comply with international requirements by the IAEA," a Japanese foreign ministry official said, quoting discussions in Tokyo.

"There were several countries that said that the problem is not asking whether Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear power, but rather than Iran does not have enough international credibility to exercise this right," he said on condition of anonymity.

The IAEA on February 4 voted to report Iran to the Security Council, but left a one-month window for diplomacy, for Iran to return to a full suspension of enrichment-related work and cooperate more with IAEA inspectors.

Japan, which is heavily dependent on oil imports, has close ties with the Islamic republic and has taken a less prominent stance over the Iran nuclear issue than the United States, Japan's main ally, and the European Union.

The Tokyo meeting also reached an "overall agreement" that North Korea must return to six-nation talks hosted by China on ending its nuclear programme, the official said.

"The North Korean nuclear programme is a serious threat to the international community, but the international community should seek to resolve the problem in a peaceful manner," he said.

Nuclear experts and diplomats from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations states, Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States participated in the closed-door one-day talks.

But contrary to an initial foreign ministry statement, China cancelled its attendance, citing "a problem in scheduling and other considerations," the Japanese official said.

"It was disappointing for us, as China has contributed a lot" to Non-Proliferation efforts, he said.

China has increasingly been at odds with Japan, which it accuses of failing to atone for its World War II atrocities. China last year scuttled Japan's cherished bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The Tokyo meeting was the third sitting of the so-called Asian Senior-level Talks on Non-Proliferation, a Japanese initiative launched in 2003 to discuss efforts against weapons of mass destruction. China attended previous rounds.

The talks came ahead of a two-day international meeting in Tokyo on efforts to curb biological weapons.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 17:05 IST