Iran's Khatami Tells Japan He'll Cooperate With UN
Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi his country will cooperate with the United Nations' inspectors to assure the world that Iran isn't developing nuclear weapons.
Khatami's message was conveyed in a letter handed over by Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi when he met Koizumi this morning, said Koichi Aiboshi, a section manager in the Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau at Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He didn't give further details.
Iran's cooperation with the UN may not be enough for Japan to sign a $2.5 billion agreement to develop the country's Azadegan oil field, according to analysts at a Tokyo think- tank. The UN wants Iran to allow its inspectors to conduct spot checks at nuclear sites, a demand that Iran hasn't yet accepted.
``It'll take some time'' before Japan signs an agreement on the Azadegan oil field, said Tsutomu Toichi, a managing director at the government-funded Institute of Energy Economics in Tokyo. ``There are so many uncertainties. No one knows how Iran will respond to the demand'' for nuclear checks, he said.
Koizumi and Kharazi didn't discuss development of the Azadegan oil field during their meeting, Aiboshi said.
In June, Japan was close to agreement on developing the Azadegan field, which has as much as 6 billion barrels of recoverable oil, when the U.S. opposed Japanese investment because of concern Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
Tomen Corp. and Japan National Oil Corp. lost their priority right to develop the field when Japan missed the June deadline. China, India and Russia have since said they are interested in developing the field.
Iran has the world's fifth-largest proven oil reserves, holding about 90 billion barrels, or about 9 percent of the total reserves.
Japan has backed demands from the U.S. and European Union for Iran to sign an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency that will allow UN inspectors to check the Middle East nation's nuclear facilities with little or no warning.
Japan is close to an agreement with Iran on developing the Azadegan field, Takeo Hiranuma, Japan's minister of trade and industry, said this week. Japan sees the agreement to develop Iran's biggest oil discovery in 35 years as a key step towards securing its oil needs.
``We have reached substantial compromises on some points,'' Hiranuma said at a press conference in Tokyo on Aug. 26. ``We still need to tie up loose ends.''
Japan is competing with China and other countries to secure stable sources of oil and gas. Winning access to the Iranian oil field will help ensure the world's second-largest economy does not run out of energy.
``We depend for almost 99 percent of our oil on outside sources,'' Japan's Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, who will meet Kharazi today, told reporters yesterday. ``To secure oil has been a very important policy goal for Japan.''
Japan considers its efforts to secure oil a separate issue from international concerns over Iran's nuclear program, she said.
``We do share the concerns of the international community on the nuclear issue,'' Kawaguchi said. ``We are as a separate matter currently engaged in discussion with Iran on oil.''
``Axis of Evil''
Iran is one of the countries U.S. President George W. Bush includes in a so-called Axis of Evil, along with Iraq and North Korea. In the post-Iraq War period, Bush has renewed calls for tough sanctions because of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons development. Tehran denies the allegations.
UN inspectors reported on June 6 that Iran has failed to disclose materials, facilities and activities required by its current agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran says it is cooperating with international officials and says its nuclear program is for electricity generation.
Iran hopes to reach an agreement with Japan this year to develop the oil field, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Iran's oil minister, said earlier this month.
Further talks today between Iranian foreign minister and Japanese government officials may not include direct negotiations on the Azadegan field, said Toichi at the Institute of Energy Economics.
``I don't think it's a good time to talk business,'' he said. http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000101&sid=aKag0n7kWTW8&refer=japan