Japan will observe for now the current developments in the Iranian nuclear standoff and put off any decision on whether to impose sanctions before a meeting next week between Iranian and European negotiators, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Friday.

“I would like to refrain from making any comment when matters are unpredictable,” Aso told a news conference, referring to the possibility that Japan could impose economic sanctions against Iran.

Calling the Iranian response made Aug. 22 “clearly unsatisfactory” and falling short of the U.N. demands, Aso said, “There are different directions we can take” in line with a provision of a U.N. Security Council resolution on the Iranian nuclear issue.

The resolution, adopted in July, states, among other things, that the Security Council will adopt “appropriate measures” under Article 41 of U.N. Chapter 7, which could lead to economic sanctions.

The UNSC in the resolution gave Iran until the end of August to halt its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, and accept an incentives package offered by six major powers in June or face possible sanctions. Iran has rejected it as having no legal grounds.

But Aso stopped short of saying whether Japan will move to sanctions, saying countries have “different positions,” and Japan, for its part, intends to “proactively engage in the negotiation process” as a member of the Security Council. Japan imports about 15 percent of its oil from Iran, and Tokyo is facing increasing pressure from Tehran to either get involved in developing the Azadegan oil field by Sept. 15 or run the risk of having China or Russia do so in its place.

The United States is strongly calling for sanctions on Iran in the wake of Iran’s defiance of the Aug. 31 deadline and a report by Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, submitted to the Security Council Thursday, confirming that Iran is continuing enriching uranium.

Aso was briefed by Abbas Araghchi, deputy minister for legal and international affairs of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, on Thursday, on Tehran’s response to the package. On Friday, Araghchi met with his Japanese counterpart, Tsuneo Nishida, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy minister.

The package was presented by the council’s five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and Germany to encourage Tehran to suspend its nuclear quest and return to negotiations.

Iran has repeatedly said it intends to continue its nuclear activities, claiming its program is peaceful in nature and meant to generate power.

Darfur action praised

Japan welcomes the adoption Thursday of a U.N. Security Council resolution that is meant to improve the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706 declares that the U.N. Mission in the Sudan currently operating in the southern part of the country will deploy to Darfur and that the United Nations will strengthen its assistance to the African Union Mission in Sudan currently deployed to Darfur.

“Japan hopes this resolution will lead to the expeditious implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement as well as the improvement of the humanitarian situation in Darfur,” the statement said.

“Japan also hopes that the Government of National Unity will offer its understanding and cooperation in order for this resolution to be smoothly implemented, through dialogue between the international community and the Government of National Unity,” it said.

“Japan has been engaged in efforts to encourage the settlement of the issues regarding Darfur, and has implemented various humanitarian and other relevant assistance,” the statement said.

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