• Reuters

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Foreign Minister Taro Kono hopes to make diplomatic efforts to reduce tension in the Middle East, he said on Tuesday, as he began a meeting with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“We are worried about tension in the Middle East and we hope to make some diplomatic effort to ease the tension,” Kono told reporters. “So we wanted to have a direct and frank conversation.”

The two men smiled and shook hands before sitting down for the talks as the media were ushered out.

Tension between Tehran and Washington has risen since U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration last year quit an international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and began to ratchet up sanctions.

Iranian officials have denounced the new penalties as “economic warfare.”

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