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Asia-pacific

Ahmadinejad delays summit visit over post-electoral unrest

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-15

Amid unrest over his contested re-election, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has postponed his visit to a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Russia. The leaders of India and Pakistan are due to meet separately at the summit.

REUTERS - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delayed a visit to Russia on Monday, a source at the Iranian embassy in Moscow told Reuters, amid unrest over his contested win in Friday’s presidential election.

 

“The president will definitely not come today,” said the official, who asked not to be named. The source would not say why the visit was delayed but added that Ahmadinejad would arrive on Tuesday.

 

Supporters of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi postponed plans to hold a protest rally in Tehran on Monday after the Interior Ministry declared it would be illegal.

 

Ahmadinejad was supposed to arrive on Monday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. Iran has observer status at the SCO, which groups Russia, China and four Central Asian states.

 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was scheduled to meet Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the summit to discuss bilateral ties and Iran’s nuclear programme, a Kremlin source said. Russia has supplied fuel to Iran for a civilian nuclear reactor.

 

Chinese President Hu Jintao also had a meeting scheduled with Iran’s president in Yekaterinburg, a Chinese official said.

 

Iranian state television said Ahmadinejad was due to fly to Russia later on Monday, a day after holding a triumphant rally attended by tens of thousands of people.

 

Besides Russia and China, the SCO groups the ex-Soviet Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In addition to Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan and India have observer status. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been invited as a guest.

 

Iran’s president, who helps rule the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, has made a tradition of stealing the limelight at major conferences, including an SCO meeting in Shanghai in 2006 that was dominated by news about Tehran’s nuclear programme.

 

The leaders of India and Pakistan are also likely to meet in Yekaterinburg, their first such meeting since last November’s attack on Mumbai.

 

Nuclear-armed powers

 

A meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari could help break the ice between the two nuclear-armed powers.

 

“We consider that this organisation is an important platform in the sense of strengthening trust, regional security and assistance in economic cooperation,” Zardari told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

 

He said nothing about a possible meeting with India’s leader in the interview and it was unclear whether they would hold a bilateral discussion or simply take part in the wider meeting.

 

SCO leaders meet for dinner with Medvedev on Monday and some observer nations will also attend. On Tuesday, a fuller meeting of SCO leaders and observer countries will take place.

 

North Korea and Afghanistan are likely to be top themes at the SCO meeting, according to Russian officials.

 

North Korea has raised tension in the past few months by test-firing missiles, restarting a plant to produce weapons-grade plutonium and holding a nuclear test on May 25.

 

On Afghanistan, Russia backed a U.S.-led military operation launched in 2001 to remove the country’s Taliban rulers.

 

Moscow has since criticised Washington for its conduct in Afghanistan and Russian ally Kyrgyzstan has ordered the United States to leave an air base Washington was renting to supply troops in Afghanistan.

 

“We welcome the increasingly transparent U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the Kremlin’s top foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, told reporters on Sunday. “The space for cooperation with the West on Afghanistan can be broader.”

 

Medvedev is scheduled to have a separate meeting with Afghanistan’s Karzai and Pakistan’s Zardari.

 

Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRIC group, will hold a separate summit on Tuesday after the SCO meeting.
 

Date created : 2009-06-15

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