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. US, Japan jointly press NKorea, Iran over nuclear programme
SYDNEY, Sept 8 (AFP) Sep 08, 2007
US President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday joined forces to pressure North Korea and Iran to fully renounce their nuclear ambitions.

Bush and Abe held talks on the sidelines of this year's summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which got underway under unprecedented security in Sydney.

"Over the North Korean issue, the leaders agreed on the importance of swift action to realise the complete abandonment of nuclear weapons and their nuclear programme," a Japanese government official said.

Under a six-nation deal reached in February, the communist nation agreed to declare and disable its nuclear programmes in return for vital energy aid and diplomatic concessions.

It followed global condemnation of the North for testing an atomic weapon for the first time last year.

"As for the Iran issue, the two leaders shared concern about nuclear development and agreed to jointly call on the international community to take concerted action on the issue," the official said.

Iran last month agreed to answer outstanding questions over its nuclear programme. Diplomats have said this is likely to stave off the threat of new sanctions for a few more months.

But the United States, which accuses Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, has voiced suspicion over the accord, saying it does not go far enough.

During the meeting, Abe told Bush that Japan would do its "utmost effort to continue activities" in the Indian Ocean by seeking opposition support to extend a mission helping US forces in Afghanistan.

The opposition camp in Japan, which seized control of the upper house of parliament two months ago, is against the mission, in which Japanese ships help refuel jets operating in Afghanistan.

The United States, Japan's main ally, has warned that ending the mission in the Indian Ocean would damage relations between the Pacific allies. The legislation authorising the mission is set to expire November 1.

Abe also assured Bush that the political turmoil gripping the premier's government following the historic election defeat would have no impact on his foreign policy.

"The basic policy on security and diplomacy of the Abe administration remains unchanged after the upper house election," Abe said.

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suffered a crushing defeat in upper house elections in July, when it lost its majority there for the first time since it was formed in 1955.

Bush, meanwhile, urged Japan to fully lift restrictions on US beef imports, imposed over fears of mad cow disease.

But Abe merely replied that Tokyo will continue talks "considering people's food safety as the basic premise," the official said.

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