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Staff writer

Argentina wants to strengthen friendly relations with Japan and step up bilateral cooperation to address the proliferation of nuclear arms and other global issues, President Carlos Menem said in an interview with The Japan Times.

In the interview — conducted in writing ahead of his arrival here next Tuesday as a state guest — Menem also expressed support for Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and asked Japan to stimulate its stagnant economy to help resolve the global financial and economic crisis.

Menem’s visit to Japan commemorates the 100th anniversary of the two nations’ friendship, commerce and navigation treaty that established diplomatic relations between the two countries.

During his four-day state visit, the first by an Argentine leader in nearly 12 years, Menem will meet with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and other Japanese political and business leaders. He will also have an audience with the Emperor.

Menem will be accompanied by a high-level official delegation and a group of business leaders, which he said “testifies to the importance that we attach to this visit.”

The Argentine leader said he is confident that his visit will “mark the beginning of a new stage in the development of our relations.”

Asked for his views on the issue of nuclear proliferation following nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in May, Menem said that his country is “convinced that renouncing the acquisition, possession and development of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as well as the adoption of full transparency regarding technologies of dual use and other sensitive areas, is fundamental to ensure regional and global peace and security.”

The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan “underline that point and the need to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime to eliminate those risks. We also believe that peace and development can only be achieved through international cooperation.”

“Nuclear weapons do not help to overcome adverse conditions and the extreme poverty which still affect whole populations around the world,” the Argentine president said.

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