Japan PM sees new Iran president as sincere

NEW YORK CITY - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he was convinced Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani was sincere in seeking to ease concerns over the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.

Abe met Thursday with Rouhani at the UN General Assembly, where the self-described new moderate Iranian president has been working to jumpstart talks with the West on the nuclear dispute.

"My frank impression of President Rouhani was that he is willing to fully cooperate with the international community. I felt a forward-looking stance from President Rouhani," Abe told reporters.

"So I really expect that Iran will take specific actions to thoroughly resolve the concerns of the international community and fully regain trust and confidence," he said.

Japan, unlike its main ally the United States, has maintained largely friendly ties with Iran both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

But under US pressure, Japan has scaled back investment in Iran and cut back imports of crude oil, avoiding US sanctions aimed at squeezing Iran's economy.

Abe did not comment directly on whether Japan would adjust its purchases of Iranian crude but said he encouraged Rouhani to compromise.

"I told him that the international community places great expectations on the new Rouhani administraion and that he should capture the current window of opportunity and that Iran should show flexibility," Abe said.

Iran says its sensitive nuclear work is for civilian purposes, but Western officials and particularly Israel fear it is trying to build a nuclear bomb.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Thursday after a landmark meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry that major powers hoped for a resolution to the nuclear dispute within a year.