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Ahmadinejad visits China Expo

world Updated: Jun 11, 2010 09:44 IST

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed "peace among nations" on a visit on Friday to the World Expo in China, which has angered Tehran by backing new UN sanctions against the Islamic republic.

Ahmadinejad was marking "Iran Day" at the massive Expo site in Shanghai, choosing a low-key visit to his country's pavilion over an appearance at a regional security summit in Uzbekistan attended by Chinese and Russian leaders.

"Love, devotion and understanding build human security and dignity based on faith, knowledge and wisdom," reads a message from Ahmadinejad at the pavilion entrance.

Ahmadinejad was mobbed by supporters as he walked through the pavilion. He was surrounded by a ring of Chinese security guards, their arms interlocked.

After inspecting several exhibits including a rug-weaving display, he signed the guest book in Farsi. "Peace among nations" was part of the message, according to pavilion staff.

His visit to China comes at a delicate time in Tehran's relations with its ally, after Beijing signed on to a new round of UN Security Council sanctions targeting Iran over its suspect nuclear programme.

When asked by a reporter about the sanctions, the Iranian leader did not reply, but an aide said: "Sanctions mean nothing."

Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Shanghai on Thursday, was not expected to meet with Chinese leaders or visit Beijing during his stay.

He was due to give a press conference in Shanghai at 3:30 pm (0730 GMT) on Friday.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday adopted a US-drafted resolution hitting Tehran with new military and financial sanctions -- punitive measures that Ahmadinejad likened to a "used hanky which should be thrown in the dustbin".

China's Western partners on the Council say Iran is using its nuclear programme as a cover to develop atomic weapons, but Beijing has nevertheless maintained close economic and energy ties with Tehran.

Presidents Hu Jintao of China and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia -- whose country also backed the sanctions -- were in Tashkent Friday for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, in which Iran has observer status.

On Thursday, Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi lashed out at China over its yes vote.

"China is gradually losing its respectable position in the Islamic world and by the time it wakes up, it will be too late," he said, according to ISNA news agency.

Salehi also accused Beijing of "double standards" by adopting a different position towards its communist ally North Korea, which has abandoned the Non-Proliferation Treaty while Iran remains an adherent.

Beijing later took pains to reassure Iran of its long-term friendship.

"China highly values relations with Iran and feels they are conducive to regional peace, stability and development," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing.

Qin reiterated that the goal of the new resolution, the fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran, was to bring Iran back to the negotiating table, not to shut the door on dialogue.

In Tehran, officials threatened on Thursday to downgrade ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, in response to the new sanctions.