Abe urges Rouhani not to miss chance for dialogue on nuke issue

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday to resolve the nuclear issue with flexibility by seizing the recent mood for dialogue, a Japanese official said.

Abe told Rouhani that "showing flexibility should be a key" to a settlement of the issue of Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program and Japan is ready to help Iran settle it.

Abe welcomed Rouhani's promotion of his intention to boost dialogue with the international community since taking office in August but warned him not to miss the current chance.

"The window of opportunity will not remain open forever," Abe was quoted as telling Rouhani in their talks in New York on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly.

The Iranian president said he hoped to resolve the nuclear issue early, according to the official.

Rouhani has said Iran's nuclear program is only for civilian use and his country will never seek to develop nuclear weapons.

The official also said Abe and Rouhani agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in the sectors of environment and prevention of illicit drug trades.

On Syria, Rouhani promised to work with relevant countries in addressing Damascus's use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Abe said Japan will cooperate with Iran and other countries concerned in providing humanitarian aid for the civil war-wracked Syria.

Abe told Rouhani that Japan will support activities aimed at ensuring President Bashar al-Assad's regime will dispose of chemical weapons stockpiles, according to the official.

Rouhani thanked Abe for a letter via his special envoy during a visit to Iran on Sept. 8. Rouhani met with Masahiko Komura, vice president of Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The meeting between Abe and Rouhani came as Iran pushes for improved relations and a resumption of stalled nuclear talks with the United States and other Western countries.

On Tuesday, Rouhani met with French President Francois Hollande, his first meeting with a Western leader. But Rouhani turned down a call by U.S. President Barack Obama for a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. event.

The Abe-Rouhani talks were the third summit between the Japanese and Iranian leaders since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, following 2000 and 2008, according to the Japanese official.