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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani reaffirmed Tuesday at a meeting in Doha that they will cooperate in securing stable energy supplies for Japan, Japanese officials said.

Abe was in Doha on the final leg of his tour of four Persian Gulf countries aimed at securing stable energy supplies.

The three other countries Abe has visited are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, and he was next scheduled to fly to Egypt to wrap up his five-nation tour in the Middle East.

According to the officials, Abe and Hamad agreed to deepen their nations’ ties through cooperation in a wide range of areas, including education, economics and culture.

Abe was quoted as telling Hamad that he wants to further enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of education.

The two issued a press statement that included an agreement to launch unofficial talks toward starting negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty and to make efforts to reach a broad accord on a free-trade agreement between Japan and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

In the statement, Japan and Qatar called for the early resolution of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals and swift implementation of the February six-party accord for North Korea to denuclearize.

Qatar also said it supported Japan’s campaign to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Abe’s visit to Qatar marks the first time in 29 years that a Japanese prime minister has visited the country. The previous visit was made in 1978 by then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda.

Japan regards Qatar as an important country in its efforts to secure stable energy supplies. Qatar is the fourth-largest oil and natural gas exporter to Japan.

Qatar is also important because it is one of the members of the GCC, with which Japan is trying to conclude a free-trade agreement.

Abe, Mubarak meet

CAIRO (Kyodo) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Wednesday with Egyptian President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, the last stop on his five-nation Mideast tour, and the two men reaffirmed their cooperation to promote peace in the region and to deal with issues related to Iraq, Japanese officials said.

“I appreciate the leadership your country has exercised toward peace and stability of the Middle East,” Abe was quoted by a Japanese official as telling Mubarak.

The two leaders also discussed enhancing bilateral ties through educational and cultural exchanges, the officials said.

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