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Japan's trade minister rejects US demand to give up oil deal with Iran

Tokyo, Aug 15, Kyodo/IRNA --

"We won't say we`ll give up just because we were asked to do so," Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Nakagawa told reporters when asked to comment on US Secretary of State Colin Powell's remarks Thursday.

"There will be no policy reversal at the current stage," Nakagawa said.

But he noted that Tokyo will stay in close contact with Washington in proceeding with the oil deal and in dealing with Iran's suspected nuclear energy programs.

"We can't just disregard the nuclear problem," he said.

Japan and Iran signed an agreement in February to develop the Azadegan oil fields in southern Iran, one of the world's largest oil fields.

In an interview with Japanese news organizations Thursday, Powell said the United States hopes Japan will take into account Tehran's suspected nuclear energy development programs in tacitly urging Tokyo to reconsider the oil deal with Iran.

Washington believes the uranium enrichment program by oil-rich Iran is intended to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran says it needs enriched uranium for power stations being built to meet booming domestic demand for electricity.

The United States has indicated its intention to bring the Iranian nuclear case before the UN Security Council for sanctions.

"I would hope that the Japanese government, Japanese business, would take this into account as they make judgments as to whether this is the place that one should be making investments in or be doing this kind of energy business with," Powell said.

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