Iran's Rouhani in Japan to meet Japan PM amid nuke impasse

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech at the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Rouhani is to visit Tokyo to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, in hopes of easing nuclear impasse between Tehran and Washington and relieving tension in the Middle East. Friday's visit is the first by an Iranian prime minister in 19 years and comes just before Japan is expected to announce a plan to deploy its troops to the Middle Eastern seas to ensure the safety of Japanese vessels transporting oil from the region. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech at the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Rouhani is to visit Tokyo to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, in hopes of easing nuclear impasse between Tehran and Washington and relieving tension in the Middle East. Friday's visit is the first by an Iranian prime minister in 19 years and comes just before Japan is expected to announce a plan to deploy its troops to the Middle Eastern seas to ensure the safety of Japanese vessels transporting oil from the region. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TOKYO – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani renewed his condemnation of the U.S. for withdrawing from a nuclear agreement and asked for Japan's help in efforts to maintain the deal as the two leaders met in Tokyo amid a continuing impasse between Tehran and Washington.

Rouhani, the first Iranian president to visit Japan in 19 years, told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the nuclear agreement with world powers remained crucial.

“The nuclear deal is an extremely important agreement, and we strongly condemn the U.S. withdrawal, which was one-sided and irrational,” Rouhani said. "We hope that Japan and other countries in the world will make efforts toward maintaining the agreement."

Abe, in his opening remarks, urged Iran to fully comply with the agreement and play a constructive role in achieving peace and stability in the region. Abe expressed concern about rising tensions in the Middle East and pledged to do as much as possible to help restore regional stability.

“I strongly expect that Iran will fully comply with the nuclear agreement and play a constructive role for peace and stability in the region,” Abe said.

The Middle East supplies more than 80% of Japan's oil.

Japan, a U.S. ally that has traditionally had friendly relations with Iran, also seeks to serve as a mediator between Tehran and Washington. Abe has said such a role is expected by the international community.

Rouhani, who was in Malaysia to attend an Islamic conference, arrived in Tokyo on Friday afternoon for an overnight visit to meet Abe and have dinner with him, Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said.