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Japanese FM to visit Iran , Turkey, Austria next week

TOKYO, Aug. 10 -- Japan's Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Tuesday he will make a weeklong visit to Iran , Turkey and Austria from next Monday.

Komura, speaking at a press conference, said he intends to exchange views on bilateral and regional issues with counterparts and other top officials of the three nations.

In Iran , Foreign Ministry officials said Komura intends to reiterate international concerns over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles when he meets with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi.

Komura will otherwise highlight improving relations between Tokyo and Tehran, the officials said.

Ministry sources said Komura is expected to convey Japan's intention to resume yen-denominated loans to Iran that have been frozen since 1993 due to U.S. objections, the officials said.

The last time Japan provided Iran with yen loans was in May 1993 when it extended 38.6 billion yen as the first tranche of financing for a dam project in the Karun River in southern Iran .

Japan was supposed to offer a second tranche of 45 billion yen by the summer of 1994. But financing was suspended after the United States objected to the plan under its policy of containing Iran for allegedly supporting terrorism and the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Japan has resumed high-level dialogue with Iran in response to Tehran's easing its grip on dissident activities and in recognition of the moderate policies of the Khatami administration formed in 1997.

Last year, Washington dropped Iran from its list of countries that produce and traffic drugs, and also partially lifted its ban on exports by U.S. companies to the country.

The ministry officials said Komura and Kharrazi will also follow up on a joint statement they issued when the Iranian minister visited Japan last December.

Under the statement, Tokyo and Tehran agreed on joint efforts to pursue the nonproliferation and disarmament of weapons, combat terrorism, press Iraq on U.N. weapons inspections, and support the Middle East peace process.

In Turkey, Komura hopes to boost bilateral ties while crediting the nation for its increasing role in the Middle East and its eastward-looking diplomacy, the officials said.

Komura is slated to exchange notes with the Turkish side to provide the country with yen-denominated loans and cultural grants, they said.

His visit to Austria will focus on international issues, including the Kosovo situation and issues related to North Korea and Taiwan, the officials said.

Komura will return to Japan on Aug. 22


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