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Ahmadinejad to attend SCO summit

By RIA Novosti,

Tehran : Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) scheduled for Aug 28 in Tajikistan, The Tehran Times reported Thursday.

The paper said during the trip the Iranian president is also due to hold meetings with his Tajik and Afghan counterparts. Afghanistan is part of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.

Iran and Pakistan, which have held observer status in the SCO since 2005, previously announced their desire to become permanent members of the organisation, but their request was not considered at a SCO foreign ministers meeting in Tajikistan July 25.

The SCO, which imposed a moratorium on new admissions two years ago, has said it has no plans to bring in new states, but is open to cooperation with non-members and will introduce the status of “SCO dialogue partner” at the SCO heads of state meeting in Dushanbe in August.

The post-Soviet regional bloc, that is widely seen as a counterweight to NATO’s influence in Eurasia, comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The group primarily addresses security issues, but has recently moved to embrace economic and energy projects.

Russia and China have been cautious over admitting Iran, embroiled in a long-running dispute with the West and Israel over its nuclear programme and alleged support for radical groups in Lebanon and other countries.

Both China and Russia have major commercial interests in Iran. China wants Iranian oil and gas, and to sell weapons and other goods to the country, while Moscow hopes to sell more weapons and nuclear energy technology to Tehran.

The Kremlin also needs Iran’s endorsement for a multinational arrangement to exploit the Caspian Sea’s energy resources.

The other observers in the group are India and Mongolia.