DUSHANBE: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on regional powers Sunday to unite against “aggression” as he gathered with his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan for security talks.
Ahmadinejad said celebrations of the Iranian New Year holiday Nowruz showed that life only improved after a “hard winter” when friends joined forces.
“Nowruz represents a battle between the forces of light against those of darkness, the fight against injustice,” Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony hosted by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and attended by some 15,000 spectators.
“Nowruz is traditionally viewed as a new day without poverty, aggression, instability, crime, discrimination, occupation and the abasement of human dignity,” Ahmadinejad said.
“All people have the right to live their life in dignity,” he declared.
Ahmadinejad and Rahmon were due to meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai later Sunday 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 Ahmadinejad 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 neighbors of Afghanistan can in practice and realistically help this nation,” Ahmadinejad said in a statement released by his office on Saturday.
“The occupiers who came to this nation from kilometers 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.
Both Zardari and Karzai gave more measured restrained speeches which made no reference to the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan or the United States.
Ahmadinejad’s visit came as a top US official prepared to sit down with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani to discuss Karzai’s February visit to Islamabad.
The US embassy in Dushanbe said Washington’s regional pointman Marc Grossman would discuss efforts “to promote a credible Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process for reconciliation and durable peace in Afghanistan.”