Ahmadinejad Denounces US Missile Defense Shield

A01177491.jpgIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a proposed US missile defense shield in central Europe would threaten “all Asia”. “Such a plan goes beyond threatening one country. It concerns most of the continent, all Asia,” he said at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Ahmadinejad spoke at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia, China and four ex-Soviet Central Asian countries. Iran has observer status in the SCO.

Russia has vehemently objected to US plans to place elements of a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying the system could be used against Russia and would wreck the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

The United States says the system is intended to head off the threat of possible missile attacks by rogue countries, including Iran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in turn told the summit that “any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally are hopeless,” and called for “strengthening a multi-polar international system that would ensure equal security and opportunities for all countries.”

He did not mention the United States by name, but the comments echoed Russia’s frequent complaints that the United States dominates world affairs.

The phrase “multi-polar” is often used by Russia to push for efforts to counter the United States’ power.

The SCO summit in the capital of Kyrgyzstan was being watched closely by Washington. The United States maintains an air base near the capital, and the SCO previously has called for a timetable to be set for withdrawing American military elements from member countries.

The SCO emerged 11 years ago to address extremism and border security issues in Central Asia.

China and Russia have been pushing for strengthening the group since the US military set up air bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan after the September 11 attacks to support the anti-terror campaign in nearby Afghanistan. Uzbekistan evicted its US base in 2005.

In recent years, with Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia signing on as observers, the group has been emerging as potentially a broader and more powerful bloc aimed at resisting US domination in world affairs.

Ahmadinejad is attending the annual summit for the second consecutive year.

The SCO has welcomed Ahmadinejad, accepting Iran as a full member may be on the table in the near future.

The organization, whose members are some of the world’s biggest energy producers and consumers, also has begun to embrace economic cooperation.

At the summit, the leaders plan to discuss the creation of an SCO Energy Club, a Kremlin official says.

A further sign of the group’s intention to influence energy markets is the participation in the Bishkek summit of Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, whose country is the second-largest producer of gas in the former Soviet Union after Russia. Turkmenistan is not a SCO member; the president is attending as a guest.

Ahmadinejad stopped in Turkmenistan on his way to Bishkek to meet with Berdymukhamedov.

For Washington, a more immediate worry is the fate of its military base in Bishkek.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said the organization’s opposition to a prolonged US military presence in Central Asia had not changed, according to an interview in the Vremya Novostei newspaper.

US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said during a visit to Bishkek in June that the US air base there was a bilateral issue and “not an issue for discussion between the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabayev has signaled in the run-up to the summit that his country is not seeking closure of the US base, saying that it is important for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Russia also maintains a military base in Kyrgyzstan.

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