WORLD> Middle East
Iran president attends summit as riots grip nation
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-17 08:28

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday defied protests against his re-election by visiting Russia for a summit where he baited the United States by saying "the age of empires has ended."

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Tehran has been gripped by the biggest anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The unrest comes after disputed official results showed Ahmadinejad scored a landslide in Friday's election.

Ahmadinejad arrived a day late in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where Iran has observer status.

Ahmadinejad met with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao. The two exchanged views on bilateral relations and other issues of common concern, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev briefly greeted Ahmadinejad, becoming the first big power leader to meet him since the election.

"The heads of SCO member states congratulated Ahmadinejad on his re-election," President Dmitry Medvedev's spokeswoman told reporters.

The two leaders joked and smiled for television cameras, although a Kremlin official said Ahmadinejad's late arrival meant a planned bilateral meeting had been cancelled due to lack of time in Medvedev's schedule.

'Capitalist order retreats'

"America is in the grasp of a political and economic crisis," Ahmadinejad told the SCO leaders in a speech that touched on the Palestinian issue and reform of the world order.

"The international capitalist order is retreating," he said, noting it is "absolutely obvious" that the "age of empires has ended and its revival will not take place".

The comments marked a renewal of Ahmadinejad's familiar verbal attacks on the US, with whom Tehran has had no diplomatic ties for almost three decades.

US President Barack Obama has made unprecedented overtures to the Iranian authorities in a bid to end the nuclear standoff. But Ahmadinejad expressed doubt about Washington's ability to solve global problems.

"Iraq is still occupied. There is no order in Afghanistan. The Palestinian problem is unsolved," he said.

"The US and its allies are unable to deal with the crisis," he said through a translator.

Pointing to the economic crisis, Ahmadinejad said that "drastic changes are an unavoidable necessity." He also referred to the "damage caused by international capitalism."

The Iranian president is attending the summit in Iran's capacity as an observer to the organization. Iranian leaders have in the past expressed interest in becoming a full-fledged member.

Iran is ready to cooperate with the SCO "more than before," he said. He proposed that the member countries establish a joint bank and also set up political and economic committees.

Ahmadinejad said the organization "can really play a leading role in the resolution of the economic and difficult political conflicts, open a new path for changes in all spheres and play an important role in global leadership".

China Daily, Reuters and AFP