Saturday, April 24, 2010

Iran seeks new partners in Africa

Iran seeks new partners in Africa

2010-04-24 10:25

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Kampala - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using his trip to Africa to build alliances to evade stronger UN sanctions for his country's nuclear programme, ease its international isolation and strengthen its economy.

Both Zimbabwe and Uganda, the two countries Ahmadinejad visited, have something to offer.

Iran has been under harsh criticism from Western nations for pressing ahead with uranium enrichment programs it says are to produce nuclear energy. The West fears the militant Islamic state could develop nuclear weapons.

"Iran hopes to persuade non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, such as Uganda, to vote against new sanctions or at least abstain from the vote," said Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the Washington-based Rand Corp. "Zimbabwe's isolation from the West also appeals to Iran, which is coming under stronger pressure due to its ongoing nuclear programme."

Nuclear programme

In Uganda, Ahmadinejad will discuss his country's nuclear programme with President Yoweri Museveni. Uganda has not yet ruled out the possibility it could vote for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, said Tamale Mirundi, a spokesperson for Museveni.

Ahmadinejad landed in Uganda on Friday night where he is expected to personally make his case after a two-day trip to Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe urged him to remain resolute in defiance of the West.

Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa told The Associated Press that while Uganda is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and wants nuclear weapons eliminated, "we strongly believe that every country has a right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

In Uganda, the Iranian leader also finds a potential business partner just beginning to tap its oil resources. Oil-rich Iran is in the running to build an oil refinery for the African country. It's also built a housing complex with thousands of units and is looking at building a tractor assembly plant and a beef cannery.

On Friday, Ahmadinejad opened a trade fair in Zimbabwe, where he castigated Western nations, saying their "bad behaviour" had enslaved Africans.

"Some oppressive and arrogant states deny people their rights. Today, they are trying to possess and control world resources," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "They want to hinder the way to scientific and development improvements in our countries."

Ahmadinejad arrived at the fair in the city of Bulawayo with Mugabe in a vintage British colonial era Bentley limousine and inspected a guard of honour. Ahmadinejad was the first leader from outside Africa to open the exposition since Zimbabwe won independence from Britain in 1980. The first colonial Bulawayo fair 50 years ago was opened by British royalty, conveyed to the site in a similar car.

Iran is the largest participant at the fair. Many traditional Western exhibitors and local industries have stayed away from the annual trade fair, once a showcase of regional goods and products, because Zimbabwe's economy has tanked under Mugabe.

Africa's markets

Ahmadinejad said Iran is interested in Africa's markets and could find like-minded leaders in Africa who face problems with the West. Zimbabwe and Iran say Iran has proposed assembling tractors in Zimbabwe and that the two countries have agreed to set up a joint investment company to help develop industry, energy, mining, water management and social and financial services.

At a state dinner on Thursday night, Mugabe said both Zimbabwe and Iran are being targeted by the West because of how they want to manage their own natural resources.

"We remain resolute in defending Zimbabwe's right to exercise its sovereignty over its natural resources. We have equally supported Iran's right to peaceful use of nuclear energy as enshrined in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," Mugabe said.

Zimbabwe and Iran say Iran has proposed assembling tractors in Zimbabwe and that the two countries have agreed to set up a joint investment company to help develop industry, energy, mining, water management and social and financial services.

- AP

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Comments by Sonny

Despot Mugabe will take Iran's money without delivering the friendship!

Maybe The greedy sod needs more arms and ammunition.

Will Mugabe ask for oil or Nukes?

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