Ahmedinejad urges unity against 'aggression'

AFP , Sunday 25 Mar 2012

Iranian president calls on regional powers to unite against 'aggression' in advance of meeting with Afghan, Pakistani counterparts

Iranian President Mahmoud  Ahmedinejad said celebrations of the Iranian New Year holiday Nowruz showed that life only improved after a "hard winter" when friends joined forces.

"Nawruz is traditionally viewed as a new day without poverty, aggression, instability, crime, discrimination, occupation and the abasement of human dignity," Ahmedinejad said at a ceremony hosted by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. "All people have the right to live their life in dignity," he said.

Ahmedinejad and Rahmon were due later Sunday to meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai for another round of talks aimed at forging a joint position in the restive region.

The meeting is officially set to focus on providing support for the Afghan economy as the NATO presence there winds down by the end of 2014.

But Ahmedinejad has used the occasion to ratchet up rhetoric in the face of renewed international pressure over his country's contested nuclear drive. "Only the friends and neighbours of Afghanistan can in practice and realistically help this nation," Ahmedinejad said in a statement released by his office on Saturday.

"The occupiers who came to this nation from kilometres away are not here to aid the government and the people of Afghanistan but are here to loot the resources and mines of Afghanistan," he said.

Ahmedinejad's visit come as a top US official prepared to sit down with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani to discuss Karzai's February visit to Islamabad.

The US embassy in Dushanbe said Washington's regional point-man, Marc Grossman, would be discussing efforts "to promote a credible Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process for reconciliation and durable peace in Afghanistan."

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