Hatoyama comes under fire for Iran visit, claims ambush

Kyodo, Staff Report

Back in Tokyo from a controversial trip to Iran, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Monday denied criticizing the International Atomic Energy Agency “for applying double standards” to Iran and said a press statement Tehran issued to that effect was completely false.

“It’s a total concoction and it’s regrettable,” Hatoyama told Diet reporters Tuesday night.

The Iranian press statement said Hatoyama criticized the IAEA “for applying double standards toward certain countries, including Iran,” during a surprise meeting with fiery Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday.

Both the Japanese government and the opposition parties told Hatoyama not to go to Iran because they were concerned Iran would only use the meeting to spread official propaganda justifying its nuclear development program.

“We knew (Iran) would definitely take advantage of the meeting. It happened just as we expected,” said Toshimitu Motegi, policy affairs chief of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition force.

“Hatoyama is responsible for the problem, but the government and the (ruling) Democratic Party of Japan are partly responsible, too, because they failed to stop” Hatoyama from going, Motegi said.

Earlier the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura insisted Hatoyama’s visit was unofficial and stressed that Japan is aligned with the international community in supporting the IAEA’s role in resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear activities.

“Our country values the role the IAEA is playing in resolving the nuclear issue, and we have been asking Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA to resolve all issues related to its nuclear program,” Fujimura said at a news conference Monday.

Hatoyama’s visit and statement came at a sensitive time in Japanese diplomacy. Iran is under fire for its uranium enrichment activities, and Japan has just convinced the U.S. to keep it off the list of countries subject to sanctions if they continue to buy oil from Iran.

The government and DPJ, led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, tried to stop Hatoyama from making the trip, which occurred on short notice, after it was criticized as “dual diplomacy” by the opposition parties.

Hatoyama’s visit can also be viewed as a sign that Noda has no control over his fellow party members. “We have continued to state that now is not a good time to visit (Iran) whether on official business or in a personal capacity,” Fujimura said.

Hatoyama was the first DPJ prime minister. He quit in June 2010.