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. IAEA chief in Japan to discuss North Korea, Iran
TOKYO, Nov 29 (AFP) Nov 29, 2006
UN atomic agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Wednesday started a visit to Japan for talks on Iran and nearby North Korea, which last month tested a nuclear bomb.

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived at Narita International Airport and was expected to meet Thursday with Foreign Minister Taro Aso, officials said.

ElBaradei, paying his first visit to Japan in two years, will also take part in a weekend public forum in the western city of Kyoto before heading on to China on Monday.

"Dr. ElBaradei will exchange frank opinions with Japanese government leaders on such matters as the nuclear issues of North Korea and Iran and how the international nuclear non-proliferation regime should be maintained and strengthened," a foreign ministry statement said.

Japan has championed a tough line against North Korea and imposed a sweeping ban on all of its imports after the communist state's nuclear test on October 9.

But Japan, which is nearly entirely dependent on foreign oil, has close commercial ties with Iran, which has defiantly refused to stop uranium enrichment.

Japanese officials will talk to ElBaradei about Iran "because it is very important to have a correct assessment of the situation Iran's nuclear activity is in," the statement said.

ElBaradei, in comments last week to a closed-door meeting of the nuclear watchdog obtained by AFP, said the investigation into Iran's nuclear program was still being hampered by unanswered questions.

Japan is the only country to have been attacked by nuclear weapons and often calls for action against nuclear proliferation.

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