June 15, 2019
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked Iranian leaders during his Tehran visit to release Americans detained by the country at the request of US President Donald Trump, a Japanese government source said Friday.
At least four Americans, including a navy veteran who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, are being detained in Iran.
Abe is believed to have requested the releases during his talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Thursday, the source said. It is not known how they responded.
As the first Japanese prime minister to visit Iran in 41 years, Abe was hoping to serve as a mediator between Tehran and Washington, with tensions having flared in recent weeks and concern growing about possible inadvertent military clashes in the region.
But Iran said Thursday it will not negotiate with the United States, rejecting Abe’s bid to broker dialogue between the two foes.
Khamenei told Abe that it was pointless to reply to a message he had brought to Tehran from Trump.
“I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future,” Iranian state media quoted Khamenei as telling the Japanese leader.