, ABUJA, Jul 6 – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to meet fellow Muslim leaders at a summit in Nigeria on Thursday after Western nations recently piled fresh sanctions on his country over its nuclear programme.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul will also attend the Developing Eight (D8) summit in Abuja, raising the possibility that damaged relations between Turkey and Israel following a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships will be examined.
The Istanbul-based D8 groups Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, with a total population of 930 million people.
Turkey warned Israel on Monday it will cut ties unless it gets an apology for the bloodshed on a Turkish ship, but the Jewish state said it will never say sorry for defending itself.
The talks open on Thursday, a week after Nigeria took over the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council.
Last month, 12 members of the Security Council, including all five permanent members, voted to impose fresh sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment programme, the most controversial aspect of its nuclear drive.
Brazil and Turkey, which had brokered a nuclear swap deal with Iran in May, voted against while Lebanon abstained.
Observers said Iran\’s nuclear programme and the sanctions were likely to be discussed at bilateral talks between Ahmadinejad and host President Goodluck Jonathan, if not at the main summit.
"With the belligerent and hostile attitude of the five permanent members against Iran, it\’s in the interest of Iran to seek closer ties, cooperation and support from non-permanent members," said Shehu Sani, a prominent Nigerian rights lobbyist. "Nigeria is one and also strategic in Africa."
World powers led by Washington accuse the Islamic republic of seeking to build nuclear weapons and are demanding that it freezes uranium enrichment activity, which can be a key step towards developing an atomic arsenal.
A defiant Iran last week told Security Council members that new sanctions will not affect its nuclear programme, which it insists is peaceful.
The new UN measures authorise states to conduct high-seas inspections of vessels believed to be ferrying banned items to Iran.
D8 leaders are also set to discuss ways to cushion the effects of the global economic recession and climate change and tackle ways to boost trade among themselves by between 10 and 15 percent.
Egypt will be represented by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Bangladesh by premier Sheik Hasina and Malaysia by its Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohn Yassin. Indonesia and Pakistan are represented by ministers.
Nigeria, which is one of the world\’s top oil producers but remains electricity-starved, will be seeking assistance with power generation and distribution, according to the foreign ministry.
The Istanbul-headquartered D8 was established in 1997 to promote economic ties and solidarity within the member states.