Daily Telegraph: Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrived in China last night for a summit of Asian states and Russia that Washington fears is forming a new anti-western alliance.
The Daily Telegraph
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrived in China last night for a summit of Asian states and Russia that Washington fears is forming a new anti-western alliance.
Mr Ahmadinejad will seek support for his country’s nuclear programme, fuelling US concern that Iran is being protected by its growing friendship with Russia and China, who both sit on the UN Security Council.
He is also believed to be pushing to join the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, which is holding its annual summit in the city today and tomorrow.
The SCO, under the leadership of China and Russia, is playing an ever-greater role in the jostling for power in Central Asia. The dictatorial nature of some of its membership, which also includes the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, has provoked descriptions of it as an anti-American alliance of despots.
Both China and Russia deny this, and China’s vice-foreign minister, Li Hui, this week ruled out early accession by Iran. But Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, said in a newspaper article: “The SCO is not a closed and exclusive club whose lines of demarcation have been clearly drawn.”
Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, has expressed concern about the summit, and the presence of President Ahmadinejad as an official observer.
“It strikes me as strange that one would want to bring into an organisation that says it’s against terrorism. . . one of the leading terrorist nations in the world,” he said.
Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, and Mr Putin are likely to assure the Iranians that they will oppose the use of strong UN sanctions or force against Iran if it refuses to stop enriching uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons. Mr Ahmadinejad, who in speeches at home has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction, will be given a rare opportunity to appear on an international stage.
The importance of the event to China, which is trying to extend its regional clout and exploit America’s growing unpopularity, was underlined by an extraordinary security operation in the financial hub of 17 million people. Shanghai has been instrumental in the explosive economic growth of the world’s largest country.
A force of 60,000 security officers has been deployed including armed police, soldiers and bomb-sniffing dogs. Dissidents have been placed under house arrest and many workers given time off.
The SCO comprises the four former Soviet republics plus Russia and China, with Pakistan, India, Iran and Mongolia holding observer status.
Its stated goal is economic co-operation and joint action against terrorism, particularly Islamist groups that have been active in all six countries. But while this provided common cause with the US in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, all have been accused of subordinating human rights to sometimes overblown claims of combating extremism.