First Published: 2006-09-15

Iran gets NAM support

Ahmadinejad in Havana as NAM backs Iran in nuclear energy row with US.


Middle East Online

By Patrick Moser - HAVANA

Will Ahmadinejad's visit to Havana make a difference?

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held talks with developing country leaders at a summit in Havana Thursday, where he drew firm backing for Tehran in the tense standoff over its nuclear program.

His trip to Cuba came as the United States pushed for sanctions against Iran, which has ignored an August 31 UN deadline to stop enriching uranium.

As his delegation lobbied for further support from the 118 NAM member states, Ahmadinejad held meetings with several of his counterparts on the sidelines of the September 11-17 Non-Aligned Movement meeting.

He drew strong backing from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during a summit of 18 developing countries (G-15) held in parallel to the NAM gathering Thursday. "I don't want to leave here until there is decisive support for Iran," the South American leader said.

It was not immediately clear whether Cuba's strongman would also receive Ahmadinejad, but his government has expressed strong support for Iran, and Raul Castro, 75, attended Thursday's summit.

Leaders of the NAM countries were expected to adopt a statement which stresses Iran's right to acquire and use nuclear energy and technology for peaceful means.

Ahmadinejad told his counterparts that "some countries are putting hurdles" in the way of progress in order to keep developing countries dependent and "exert political pressure" -- a thinly-veiled reference to US-led efforts to get Iran to stop producing enriched uranium.

In Washington the White House dismissed Iran's calls for unconditional negotiations. "We can't be any more clear about this; suspend enrichment and reprocessing activities and we'll talk," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Several of the speakers at ministerial meetings ahead of the full summit insisted that the NAM, created at the height of the Cold War, remained relevant as a tool for developing nations to counter US global might.

Israel also came under sharp attack for what a draft statement called "excessive and indiscriminate force, targeted attacks and extrajudicial executions" in the Palestinian territories and for its recent military offensive in southern Lebanon.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was scheduled to address NAM leaders on Friday, when the summit of heads and state and government gets under way after four days of lower-level meetings.


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