, YEKATERINBURG, Jun 16 – Iran’s under-fire President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday joined an array of world leaders at a regional summit in Russia, defiantly declaring that the age of empires had ended.
In a show of confidence after the worst riots in his country in a decade, Ahmadinejad made no mention of the violence or his hotly disputed reelection victory in his address to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
"The international capitalist order is retreating," the controversial president told world leaders, including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and China’s Hu Jintao, in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.
"It is absolutely obvious that the age of empires has ended and its revival will not take place."
A broadly-smiling Ahmadinejad, wearing a dark suit and as usual no tie, earlier shook hands with a beaming Medvedev before the leaders went into the second day of the summit.
Whether Ahmadinejad — who has a habit of stealing the limelight at such events — would turn up had become a source of intrigue after he postponed his planned arrival on Monday following unrest over his disputed election victory.
Ahmadinejad was initially scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Medvedev but a Kremlin spokesman said that meeting has been cancelled, apparently because of a tight schedule.
Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov earlier described the elections as an "internal affair of the Iranian people", in Moscow’s first official reaction to the controversy.
The Iranian president is attending the summit in Iran’s capacity as an observer to the the organisation and Tehran has in the past expressed interest in becoming a fully-fledged member.
The visit to Russia is Ahmadinejad’s first foreign trip since his landslide re-election victory over his moderate rival Mir Hossein Mousavi sparked two days of street protests and some of the worst rioting in Tehran in a decade.
In the latest sign of Beijing seeking to promote its influence in Central Asia, Hu announced that China would extend a 10 billion dollar credit to member states to help them overcome the financial crisis.
"China has taken a decision to extend to the organisation a credit worth 10 billion dollars to help maintain financial stability," Hu said.
"The global financial crisis continues to deepen, its influence on the global economy is becoming increasingly distinct," he added.
For his part, Medvedev expressed optimism that "within the framework of the work we are doing in the organisation there can be developed the mechanisms that can allow to overcome the crisis."
Russia hopes to use the SCO summit and the first summit of Brazil, Russia, India and China being held later on Tuesday in Yekaterinburg to boost its stature as an influential powerbroker.
While the Kremlin is seeking to build bridges with the new administration of US President Barack Obama, the summit is expected to emphasise the group’s suspicion of the US as a global superpower.
The SCO was set up in 1996 as an alternative to NATO that would allow Russia and China to counter US influence in Asia.
Along with the two giants, the group also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran has in the past expressed interest in becoming a full member and currently has observer status.
Indian Premier Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, also in attendance in the capacity of obsevers to the summit.
The pair were "likely" to hold face-to-face talks Tuesday in an effort to break the ice between the two nations following the deadly Mumbai attacks late last year, officials have said.
Afghanistan is also to be a major focus of the talks with President Hamid Karzai attending as a guest.
Medvedev, Karzai and Zardari held joint and bilateral talks late Monday, and vowed to unite in the battle against terrorism.