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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi avoided giving a clear answer Monday to visiting members of the U.S. Congress who are pressing for a quick resumption of beef imports, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Adam Putnam of Florida and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, both Republicans, made the request at a meeting with Koizumi because beef production is a major industry in their states. The two are part of a U.S. delegation being led by House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Koizumi simply told the delegation it is important to ensure food safety and his administration is making efforts to that end, according to the officials.

Meanwhile, Koizumi and Hastert agreed the two countries should cooperate on preventing terrorism, the officials said. Hastert said they should work together on dealing with other challenges, including Iraq’s reconstruction and North Korean issues.

Hastert also attended a meeting with lawmakers from Japan, South Korea and Mongolia at a Tokyo hotel and urged them to oppose North Korea’s regime for the sake of the people in that country.

He referred to a House resolution calling for the settlement of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese and South Korean citizens and branded North Korea the most autocratic state in the world.

In a separate meeting, Hastert and House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono agreed to start a program in which both countries will dispatch a delegation of parliamentarians to each other every other year to boost mutual exchanges, an official at the Lower House’s secretariat said.

The Lower House plans to send its first delegation, likely to consist of several members, to the United States next year, while the U.S. is expected to do likewise in 2007, the official said.

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