Iranian president Ahmadinejad in Zimbabwe for trade fair

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Image: Daniella Zalcman.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, is visiting Zimbabwe to sign trade agreements with the country and meet with Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.

Ahmadinejad, in comments at the trade fair located in Bulawayo, said the amount of trade between the two nations should be increased. The Iranian president remarked that Zimbabwe and Iran made a friendship based on a principled stand against Western interference, and accused the West of seeking control over Zimbabwe's natural resources.

Mugabe commented: "Because of the principled positions we have taken at both the domestic and international level, Zimbabwe and Iran have been unjustly vilified and punished by Western countries. Be also assured, comrade president, of Zimbabwe's continuous support of Iran's just cause on the nuclear issue."

The US wants new UN sanctions against Iran, due to the latter's refusal to stop its uranium enrichment, saying that it it is intended for nuclear weapons. Iranian authorities, however, insist the programme is only for peaceful purposes.

According to the The Sunday Telegraph, the trades will consist of Iran supplying oil to Zimbabwe, in exchange for the latter's allowing Iran to obtain access to uranium deposits in the country. "Iran secured the exclusive uranium rights last month when minister of state for Presidential affairs, Didymus Mutasa, visited Tehran. That is when the formal signing of the deal was made, away from the glare of the media," a Zimbabwean government source stated, as quoted by the Telegraph.

Ahmadinejad’s visit brought another source of friction between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said that Mugabe's invitation sent the wrong message to the rest of the world as Zimbabwe was re-engaging the West and trying to rebuild its economy. MDC sources said Tsvangirai flew to South Africa on Thursday, the day on which Ahmadinejad arrived.

In a statement, the MDC remarked that "Ahmadinejad's visit is not only an insult to the people of Zimbabwe, but an affront to democracy and to the oppressed people of Iran."