Yemen war: Houthi missile attack on Saudi airport 'injures 26'

Japan Announces PM Abe to Meet with President and Ayatollah in Iran

"Amid concerns over growing tension in the Middle East and with the attention of the global community on the issue, Japan wishes to do its best towards peace and stability in the region", Abe told reporters in Tokyo before leaving for Tehran.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves to well-wishers on his departure from Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Wednesday for a two-day visit to Iran.

The challenges for Abe appear to be manifold, including smoothing the way for potential dialogue between Iran and the United States, Japan's longtime security ally, by helping bridge the rift between them.

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

The U.S. deployed B-52 bombers and an assault ship to bolster an aircraft carrier in the region.

In an accompanying article headlined "A samurai in Tehran", the paper said everyone was waiting to see "Tehran's reaction to Japan's initiative to raise its worldwide standing by mediating as both Washington's ally and Iran's friend".

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

September 1978 - Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda visits Iran. They suggested the Iranian government will view Abe's visit as a welcome restatement of Iran's importance but would grow annoyed if Abe presents himself as an advocate for the USA position, threatening Japan's relationship with Iran.

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Meanwhile, US sanctions have cut off opportunities for Iran to trade its excess uranium and heavy water overseas, putting Tehran on course to violate terms of the nuclear deal regardless.

May 8 - Iran announces suspension of some commitments under nuclear deal.

Hard-liners within Iran already have dismissed Abe's trip.

Bahrain, a close ally of Riyadh and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, said Wednesday's attack was a serious escalation carried out by Iranian weapons, and called for a "a clear and firm global stance".

"Just like the nuclear deal. helped improved the country's economy, visits by people such as the Japanese prime minister will improve the livelihood of the people", the hard-line Kayhan newspaper sarcastically offered in an editorial Tuesday.

Zarif also warned: "Whoever starts a war with us will not be the one who finishes it".

"The Houthis ... are saying these kind of attacks are revenge for Saudi Arabia's escalation and their attacks on civilian areas over the past four years", al-Attab said.

He will meet Mr Rouhani later today and Ayatollah Khamenei tomorrow before leaving the Iranian capital. "And Tehran can probe for opportunities to expand its trade relationship with Tokyo, although options are quite limited".

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