• Kyodo

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The United States has shown approval toward Japan’s plan to have Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visit the country, according to diplomatic sources, as Tehran is seeking to break a deadlock over a nuclear deal with world powers.

Washington has also urged Tokyo to share the outcome of a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Rouhani, the sources said. A senior U.S. official has relayed the message to Japan.

Japanese and Iranian officials are arranging for Rouhani to visit around Dec. 20, according to the sources. If realized, it will be the first visit to the country by an Iranian president since Mohammad Khatami in October 2000.

Building on years of friendship, Japan has been stepping up efforts to reach out to Iran, reeling from economic sanctions that the United States reinstated after President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear deal, which he called “horrible” and “one-sided.”

Abe, an ally of Trump, visited Iran in June — becoming the first Japanese prime minister to do so since 1978 — in the hope of brokering dialogue between Tehran and Washington.

If Rouhani visits, Abe is expected to demand that Iran comply with the nuclear deal, the sources said. Tehran has gradually stepped away from commitments under the landmark agreement under which it promised to limit its uranium stockpiles and enrichment levels in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Abe may also seek Iran’s understanding toward Japanese plans to send Self-Defense Forces personnel to the Middle East, the sources said. The Japanese government is considering dispatching a destroyer and a patrol plane to the region to enhance information-gathering capabilities and ensure the safe navigation of ships.

Last Tuesday Abe met with Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, in Tokyo. The special envoy of Rouhani informed Abe of the president’s intention to visit Japan, the sources said.

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