Trump Backs Abe Playing Intermediary Role in Standoff With Iran.........

...U.S. President Donald Trump expressed support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe playing a role in facilitating talks with Iran after the Japanese leader reportedly offered his services as an intermediary amid mounting tensions in the Middle East.

Japan, a close ally of the U.S., has also maintained ties with Iran. It welcomed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on a visit earlier this month and has expressed support for the 2015 multinational accord restricting Iran’s nuclear program that was rejected by the Trump administration.
“I know for a fact that the prime minister’s very close with the leadership of Iran and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said on Monday ahead of a bilateral summit with Abe, responding to a shouted question. “That would be fine. Nobody wants to see terrible things happen. Especially me.”
Japanese media reported last week that Abe was considering a visit to Iran as soon as June. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the reports weren’t true.
Trump ratcheted up pressure by ordering punishing new economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing America last year from a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran’s leaders. The agreement, which sought to ease sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for an end to Iran’s nuclear program, is still backed by European allies as well as China and Russia. Japan was not a party to the deal.
Frictions heightened this month after the U.S. claimed, without citing evidence, that Tehran was planning an escalated campaign against American interests in the Middle East. The U.S. dispatched an aircraft carrier and bombers to the region, and Trump last week ordered more troops to the area. The U.S. is also pressing ahead with sales of weapons to rival Middle Eastern states.
Iran’s top diplomats are touring neighboring countries, including three Arab Gulf monarchies, to try to shore up support.
While maintaining ties with Iran, Japan has also cut back its oil purchases from the country to 3 percent of its total oil imports, so the end of U.S. sanction waivers is expected to have relatively little impact, Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said.

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