Japan appeared close to clinching a major oil development deal on Wednesday as Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori called for a new page in ties.
"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 give 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 industrialised 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 barrells. It would be resource-poor Japan's biggest oil development project yet.
In the Yomiuri Shimbun interview, Khatami also said that future relations with the United States would depend on how Washington handles the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, known as the D'Amato act, which expires next year. If the act is not extended, "Iranian people will welcome this as a positive sign," he said.
Khatami asked for Japan's involvement in the Middle East peace process and help for Palestinians, as the death toll from four weeks of violence between Israel and the Palestinians topped 150.
"Japan can make further contributions to security in the (Middle East) region," the Iranian president said."Peace will not occur unless the rights of both Israel and the Palestinians are realised, but the rights of the Palestinians have not been realised," he said.
Khatami is scheduled to address the lower house of Japan's parliament (Diet) later Wednesday on his reform drive in Iran and the need to boost dialogue in the international community, officials 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.—AFP.
©--Agenece France Presse.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)