Japan appeared close to clinching an exclusive oil deal with Iran on Wednesday as Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori called for a fresh start in their relations.
"I hope that through this visit, we can explore new relations between the two countries," Khatami told Mori at an informal meeting, according to a Japanese foreign ministry official.
Khatami, who arrived in Tokyo Tuesday for the first official visit to Japan by an Iranian leader in 42 years, is to hold an official summit with Mori on Wednesday afternoon.
"I hope this visit will be meaningful so that we can turn a new page in relations between the two countries," Mori responded.
In an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, Khatami voiced his intention to conclude an agreement giving Japan negotiating rights to develop the Azadegan oil field in southwest Iran, one of the largest in the Middle East.
"Talks are going well, and I am hoping to obtain a more concrete outcome before the end of this visit," Khatami told the daily.
"I am pleased to cooperate with Japan in this matter," the Iranian leader said.
"Japan, as an advanced industrialized nation, needs energy," he said. "Japan's participation in the production of energy resources will be beneficial for future production."
The deal would reportedly allow a Japanese consortium to negotiate exclusively with Iran to acquire the developing and operating rights for the field, which is said to have oil reserves of more than 26 billion barrels.
It would be resource-poor Japan's biggest oil development project yet.
In a speech delivered to Japanese business groups, Khatami took a swipe at a US-oriented global economy, while promising to take legislative measures to boost foreign investment in his country.
"Economic globalization cannot and must not be wielded as a weapon by those who fantasise about the establishment of a unipolar world system," Khatami said.
"Globalization should be defined in broader terms than just a greater access to large markets," Khatami said.
"To survive and flourish, a viable and dynamic world economic order must devise its strategies on the basis of shared attitudes and values," said the Iranian president.
"Japan and Iran ... can assume a vital role in giving a more humane and equitable direction to the process of economic globalization," he said.
He told his business audience that Iran was now making every effort to encourage foreign investment.
"At present, we are trying hard to bring about appropriate, secure and equitable conditions conducive to the expansion of the volume of foreign investment," Khatami said.
"And to that end, legislation of transparent, updated and comprehensive rules and regulations is on the agenda of the government and parliament," he said.
Khatami called on Japanese companies to expand their business in Iran, and stressed Tokyo's role in the west Asian economy.
"Japanese capital, technological know-how and management skills on the one hand, and Iran's economic potentialities such as diverse, rich natural and human resources ... on the other hand, can fuse to ignite the engine of a sustainable and equitable development in west Asia," he said.
"Japan, as one of the major world economic powers, can play the leading part in coordinating and organizing the Asian economic pole," Khatami said.
On Thursday, Khatami will meet Emperor Akihito and give a lecture at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he is to be awarded an honorary doctorate -- TOKYO (AFP)
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