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TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has headed to Iran on a closely watched trip, saying he hoped to help ease tension in the Middle East.

Abe told reporters Wednesday that he wants to do as much as he could to secure peace and stability in the region.

Tension has intensified since Washington has withdrawn from a nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers and re-imposed sanctions.

Abe, the first Japanese leader visiting Iran in 41 years, will hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during his three-day visit.

Japan maintains friendly ties with both Tehran and Washington and hopes to serve as mediator, a task experts say is difficult.

Japan imports its oil mostly from the Middle East and considers its stability crucial.