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WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi touted U.S. beef Thursday at a joint news conference with President George W. Bush, after the U.S. leader revealed Koizumi had eaten the meat the previous evening.

“I want to thank you for opening your markets to U.S. beef,” Bush said after talks with Koizumi in the Oval Office. “I think the Japanese people are going to like the taste of U.S. beef.

“As a matter of fact,” the president said to Koizumi, “I had a good slice of beef last night, and you told me you did as well, and you look like you’re feeling pretty good.”

“Very good,” the prime minister replied.

His comment is a boost to the U.S. beef industry, which is trying to promote its products to Japanese consumers as Japan is poised to resume beef imports.

A Foreign Ministry official said Koizumi ate U.S. beef at a private dinner, which included Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ryozo Kato, at a local steakhouse Wednesday evening.

Homegrown beef was also on the menu at an official dinner Thursday night honoring Koizumi at the White House, with “Texas Kobe beef” as the entree.

The beef issue had been the major unresolved bilateral dispute ahead of the “sayonara” summit, Koizumi’s last visit to Washington before he leaves office in September.

But the two-year-old problem is coming to an end as just over a week ago the two nations struck a deal for Tokyo to lift its ban on U.S. beef after inspecting U.S. meatpacking plants.

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