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Iranian President Mohammad Khatami expressed his desire to expand bilateral ties with Japan in the areas of economics, politics and culture on Tuesday, the first day of his four-day visit.

Khatami held brief talks with Foreign Minister Yohei Kono at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, where the Iranian leader arrived for the first official visit to Japan by the president of the Islamic state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

During their discussions, Khatami said the two countries have a good opportunity to forge closer ties in the three fields, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

Khatami lauded Japan’s role in the international community and emphasized the country’s importance to Iran, while reiterating his proposal that the international community achieve peace through dialogue, the official said.

Kono in turn praised Khatami’s reform efforts in Iran and said he will strive to improve bilateral ties, the official said.

Kono added that he sympathizes with Khatami’s calls for dialogue among regions of the world and wants to hear the Iranian leader’s views on the subject, the official said.

He added that cultural ties between Japan and Iran date back around 1,200 years, as shown by Persian glassware and musical instruments found in the ancient capital of Nara.

“This is proof that cultural dialogue existed between the two countries a long time ago,” Kono was quoted as saying.

Kono and Khatami also agreed on the need for Iran to improve its ties with the United States and for peace to be achieved between the Palestinians and the Israelis in the Middle East, the official said.

Japan hopes Khatami’s visit will enhance bilateral ties, especially in the economic arena.

Tokyo, however, has thus far refrained from making excessively enthusiastic overtures for fear of provoking the anger of the U.S., which still regards Iran as a supporter of terrorists and a developer of weapons of mass destruction.

Khatami will meet Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori today to discuss bilateral ties. He will also brief the House of Representatives plenary session on Iran’s reforms and democratic changes under his leadership.

The last foreign dignitary to address the Diet was South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, in October 1998.

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