Japanese student kidnapped in Iran

Iran Materials 11 October 2007 10:45 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - Japan said Thursday it was working with Tehran to free a 23-year-old Japanese university student kidnapped as he travelled alone in lawless southeastern Iran.

The student, whose name was not given due to security reasons, was taken captive Monday and he was confirmed to be safe as of Wednesday, an official at the foreign ministry said.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said he spoke by telephone with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki to ask for assistance.

"I asked him for his cooperation in safely rescuing the kidnapped person," Komura told reporters.

"He said they have identified the whereabouts of the abductee and he told me he will make efforts to resolve the issue," Komura said.

Japan has discouraged its nationals from visiting the area, known for banditry, near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In August, two Belgians went missing in southeastern Iran but were soon found free and unharmed.

Japanese authorities declined comment on who was behind the kidnapping, but public broadcaster NHK said that Iran had identified the group responsible.

The foreign ministry has set up an emergency task force to resolve the incident headed by Senior Vice Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Japan has historically had cordial relations with Iran, both before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Japan has taken a lower profile than its Western allies in pressuring Tehran on its nuclear drive, although Tokyo last year pulled out of a project to develop Iran's largest onshore oil field.