Japanese and U.S. officials may hold a working-level meeting on energy, the first since 1996, Seiji Murata, vice minister of economy, trade and industry, said Thursday.

Murata did not elaborate, but sources said the decision apparently reflects Washington’s stepped-up bid to pressure Japan to withdraw from a large-scale Iranian oil development program.

“Nothing has been decided yet,” Murata said, “but I think it’s better to exchange opinions on a wide range of energy issues.”

The meeting, if it takes place, would probably focus on the project involving Iran’s massive Azadegan oil field, which is being pursued by a consortium of Japanese companies.

The U.S. government wants Japan to withdraw from the project because it is currently trying to get Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. does not want any countries involved in energy-development programs in Iran.

The meeting might also cover the situation in Iraq and the nuclear power policies of Japan and the U.S.

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