Ahmadinejad attends Russia summit despite election protests


Moscow : Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Russia for a summit Tuesday despite protests over alleged election fraud in the Islamic republic’s presidential polls last week.

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Ahmadinejad will attend a summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Yekaterinburg, central Russia, and later meet with journalists, Russia’s Itar-Tass and Interfax news agencies said.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad declared victory in the Iran’s presidential election, despite opposition protests claiming election fraud.

Iran’s embassy in Moscow said Monday that Ahmadinejad’s trip, originally planned for that day, had been delayed. It remained unclear whether Iran’s president would meet his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev.

The SCO, founded in 2001 by Russia and China, aims at increasing the two countries’ influence in the region. Other members are the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The two-day summit is being attended by Chinese leader Hu Jintao and high-level delegations from India, Pakistan and Mongolia, who enjoy an observer status in the group.

Iran had previously applied for full membership in the group, but was rejected by Moscow and Beijing. Relations between Moscow and Tehran have been close, but not free of friction.

Moscow insists on a diplomatic solution the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme and the Islamic republic’s alleged nuclear weapons drive. Russian companies are also involved in constructing Iran’s first nuclear power plant at Bushehr, that is expected to to go online in 2010.

However, the Kremlin has so far rejected selling Russian missile defence systems to Iran.