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How Khamenei made Abe's Iran visit a mission impossible

Japan's prime minister was in Tehran to deliver a message of rapprochement from the US president. But Shinzo Abe received a tough albeit respectful response of noncompromise from the Iranian leadership.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shake hands at Abe's official residence in Tokyo Thursday, May 16, 2019. Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via REUTERS - RC114BAC3050

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Tehran June 12 for a two-day state visit that was widely seen as a mission to alleviate tensions between Iran and the United States. Little came out of Abe's meeting with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, and their joint presser offered nothing beyond typical diplomatic exchanges. Between the lines, however, it could be read that Abe had embarked upon a tough journey in trying to bring Iran and the United States closer together.

The day after, Japan's premier sat down with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Details of talks between Khamenei and visiting world leaders are exclusively covered by his office's special media team, who most often release an edited text-only version of his remarks. In the case of Abe, nevertheless, the office released video excerpts of his comments in a rare media gesture that had a clear purpose.

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