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BERGEN, Norway — The leaders of Japan and the Nordic countries ended their first-ever summit June 26 with a call to work together on the environment and share expertise on social welfare programs.

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto came to Bergen, the main city on Norway’s west coast, to join a regular meeting of the prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland.

At a news conference following the nearly two-hour session, Hashimoto said the “first-ever Nordic-Japanese summit” should lead to regular meetings.

“We exchanged views on U.N. reforms, the environment and on other issues,” said Hashimoto through an interpreter at the 25-minute conference held by the six prime ministers.

“It is important for our countries to exchange our experiences with one another. We want to promote exchanges of data,” Hashimoto also told the press.

He also said the leaders agreed to share information on social programs, especially those concerning their aging populations. While the Japanese society is rapidly aging, the Scandinavian countries are more advanced in coping with aging societies.

At their talks, the leaders also confirmed their hopes to continue such political dialogue, Japanese officials said.

Most of Hashimoto’s 2 1/2-day visit to Norway, the first by a Japanese prime minister, was devoted to sightseeing in Norway’s second largest city and the nearby fjords. During the visit, he was met by about 20 protesters demanding that Japan forgive some debts of developing nations.

When joining the Nordic ministers for a photo session at a Bergen hotel, Hashimoto smiled and raised his hand above his head to play on the striking difference between his height and that of the tall Nordic leaders.

“This is the first time the Nordic prime ministers have had such a meeting with their Japanese counterpart,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjorn Jagland. “We all have Japan as our most important trading partner in Asia.”

Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said the leaders discussed the need for making a strong commitment to cutting environment-damaging carbon dioxide gases at a December conference in Kyoto. The conference is due to approve a new treaty to combat global warming.

“We know what is right and what is wrong,” he said about the plight of the global climate. “We have passed the stage of discussion … now we have to reverse the trend.”

However David Oddsson, prime minister of Iceland, said cuts had to take into account the amount of pollution a country produced to start with. Iceland, an island nation of 250,000 people, produces so little carbon dioxide that it can’t afford big reductions.

His illustration of the dilemma brought a roar of laughter from the ministers.

“If you have one man who weighs 150 kg and another who is 75 kg and you decide they both have to go down 50 kg, one will live happily ever after and (the) other will be dead,” Oddsson said in English.

Some of the Nordic ministers planned to visit a Norwegian offshore oil platform on June 27, while Hashimoto was due to fly back to Japan after another sightseeing round early June 27.

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