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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Palazzo Chigi to attend a meeting with Italy's Prime Minister

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to Tehran represents the highest-level effort yet to de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran as the country appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers that America earlier abandoned.

Abe, the first Japanese leader to visit Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, arrives in Tehran as brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States stokes fear of another military conflict in the crisis-ridden Middle East.

Iran's nuclear deal, agreed to at the time by China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S., saw Tehran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions.

There was no immediate Iranian response.

"We believe it is extremely important that, at the leadership level, we call on Iran as a major regional power to ease tension, to adhere to the nuclear agreement and to play a constructive role for the region's stability", Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said ahead of the trip.

"There are concerns over rising tensions in the Middle East".

"Prime Minister Abe has unique diplomatic access to the leadership of Iran".

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Tehran is locked in a bitter standoff with Washington after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in May past year. Japan had once purchased Iranian oil, but it has now stopped because of American sanctions.

Abe's itinerary includes meetings with President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday. Saudi Arabia accused Iran of ordering the attack, a charge that Tehran and the Houthi movement deny.

Before making the trip official, Japan carefully laid the groundwork.

December 2006 - U.N. Security Council adopts sanctions against Iran over nuclear development.

A government official said Abe will not be in Tehran to "mediate between Iran and the U.S." and that "easing tensions" was the prime goal.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who was in Tehran for talks with senior officials earlier this week, described the situation in the region as "highly explosive and extremely serious". We are comfortable with Prime Minister Abe speaking with Iranians.

Tensions in the Middle East have risen in recent weeks, roughly a year after Trump's decision to leave the global nuclear accord that led to the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for its curbing of nuclear activities.

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