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2ND LD: Japan, Germany to cooperate on UNSC reform despite difference+
[February 21, 2006]

2ND LD: Japan, Germany to cooperate on UNSC reform despite difference+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, Feb. 21_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: UPDATING)

Visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier acknowledged Tuesday there is difference in the efforts of his country and those of Japan in pursuing reforms of the U.N. Security Council but said he and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Aso, have agreed to continue their dialogue and cooperation on the matter.

The foreign ministers also agreed to cooperate in trying to persuade Iran to heed international calls to resolve the issue of its nuclear program, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said, referring to calls for Iran to give up its uranium enrichment activities.

Aso told Steinmeier he will take up the matter during his talks with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, who is visiting Japan next week, the official said.

"On U.N. Security Council reform, there is somewhat of a difference (in our nations' positions) but we will continue to talk to sort this out," Steinmeier told the press after holding talks with Aso in Tokyo.

Steinmeier, who has been in Japan since Monday on a three-day visit, is the first German foreign minister to visit Japan since the launch of a coalition government in November last year under the newly elected Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Steinmeier did not elaborate on that difference but was apparently alluding to Germany's view of maintaining cooperation with Japan, India and Brazil -- the so-called Group of Four -- in seeking permanent seats on the Security Council. Japan has been keen to maintain the G-4 framework while also exploring a new proposal to gain U.S. backing for their bid.

Aso also did not elaborate on what cooperation they had agreed on in their efforts to have the Security Council reformed, simply saying, "We share the perception that UNSC reform is a pending issue and that we will continue cooperating on it."

The official said Aso and Steinmeier agreed to pursue a proposal they believe can gain the necessary two-thirds approval by the U.N. General Assembly but did not discuss anything concrete.

The two ministers said they have also agreed on the importance of international solidarity in tackling the Iranian nuclear issue, with Steinmeier saying this show of solidarity is the "key to success" in resolving the matter.

The two also confirmed their continued cooperation in postwar reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official said.

Aso also conveyed Japan's concern at the lifting of the European Union's arms embargo on China and urged Germany to understand its position, the official said.

Steinmeier was quoted as replying that Japan need not worry at the moment as there is no move within the EU to expedite the lifting of the ban on Chinese-bound arms exports.

Ahead of the foreign ministerial talks, Steinmeier paid a brief call on Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at his office.

The premier was quoted by ministry officials as saying it is important for Japan and Germany to cooperate within the G-4 framework and at the same time to further cooperate in gaining U.S. support.

In neither of his meetings with Aso or Koizumi did Steinmeier say what Germany thinks of Japan's proposal to seek U.S. backing, the officials said.

Both Aso and Koizumi extended invitations to Steinmeier for Merkel to visit Japan, they said, adding Steinmeier said he will ask her to come to Japan as soon as possible.

The G-4 submitted a joint resolution to the U.N. General Assembly last year calling for expansion of the Security Council's permanent membership to 25 in an attempt to become permanent members themselves.

But they failed to put the resolution to a vote due to a lack of support from numerous other U.N. members, including the United States, which is among the five permanent members of the Security Council.

In January, Germany, Brazil and India resubmitted the resolution but Japan did not join because it said it is pursuing a better idea in cooperation with the United States.

On Iran, Steinmeier said at a separate news conference before his talks with Aso that Germany will continue to pursue "diplomatic possibilities" but added, "Economic sanctions, should the case be handled by the U.N. Security Council, cannot be totally eradicated."

During his talks with Aso, he expressed hope of progress on the issue through Russia's compromise proposal to enrich Iranian uranium on its soil, saying the doors are still open for negotiations.

Germany, together with France and Britain, has been negotiating with Iran over the nuclear issue.

Iran has said it has the right to enrich uranium for the purpose of peaceful nuclear energy, but the United States, European and other nations fear Iran is working on a secret nuclear weapons program.

Steinmeier stopped in South Korea before arriving in Japan, and is due to fly to China after his visit here.

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