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Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, in an informal meeting with visiting Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on Wednesday morning, expressed support for Iran’s domestic reform efforts and improved ties with the international community.

During the meeting, which followed a welcoming ceremony for the president at the State Guesthouse in Tokyo, Mori said he welcomes Khatami’s reform efforts, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Khatami said he wants to discuss cooperation measures, not only to boost bilateral relations but also for international peace and security, in talks with Mori scheduled for later in the day.

Khatami is the first Iranian president to visit Japan since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Since taking office in 1997 after an overwhelming victory against a conservative rival, he has implemented a variety of reform measures, including increasing freedom of speech and the formation of multiple political parties.

The president has also worked to improve ties with Persian Gulf neighbors and European countries. However, he faces mounting resistance from conservatives at home who oppose his reform efforts.

In a speech at the Lower House plenary session in the afternoon, Khatami said that Iranian democracy under Islamic principles should be respected as one rooted in its own culture and heritage. It should jointly exist with, not be overruled by, the Western idea of democracy.

Khatami, an advocate of “dialogue among the civilizations,” under which he claims Western and Eastern countries should learn from each other, said Japan is a good example of a nation that has sought democracy while preserving its own values during the process of modernization.

“Japan’s democracy today is the fruit of the mix between Western civilization and Japan’s own culture,” he said.

“From our perspective, democracy does not run counter to religion,” Khatami said. “A uniform idea that ignores the diversity and independence of other governments and people cannot be recognized as one that promotes peace and security in the world,” he said, apparently referring to Washington’s hardline stance against Iran.

The United States has labeled Iran a rogue state, accusing Tehran of sponsoring international terrorism, producing weapons of mass destruction, sabotaging the Middle East peace process and violating human rights. Relations have somewhat improved, however, because of Khatami’s reform efforts.

“(For a nation) to listen to other people’s ideas and understand them, and then reconstruct its own ideas based on the understanding . . . is one way of realizing dialogue between civilizations,” he said.

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