The government Tuesday stepped up pressure on North Korea, drumming up international support for its position on the abductions of Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ambassadors and other diplomats from 18 nations and the European Union were invited to the Prime Minister’s Official Residence to voice their support for Tokyo raising the abduction issue at the Group of Eight summit of major industrialized nations in St. Petersburg, Russia, next month.

“We shared the idea with most of the participants that the abduction issue is more important than each country’s differences in political and economic beliefs . . . and that it is an abuse of human rights that we cannot condone,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Suzuki said after the meeting, which lasted some 90 minutes.

All of the G8 nations were present at the gathering, including the United States, which has expressed interest in the abduction issue. Other countries that sent envoys included Thailand, which suspects North Korea also kidnapped one of its nationals.

Earlier this month, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will chair the first G8 summit to be hosted by his country, said during an interview with media organizations that it would be difficult to take up the subject as one of the main agenda items.

He also reportedly said Moscow is prepared to discuss the abduction issue at the summit if it is raised by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

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