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Russia hosts key summit with Ahmadinejad in attendance

world Updated: Jun 16, 2009 11:49 IST

Russia on Tuesday hosted the second day of a key security summit seen as a counter to US power with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, making his first foreign trip since his disputed re-election, in attendance.

Ahmadinejad arrived early on Tuesday to attend the high-profile get-together dominated by Russia and China, being hosted by the Kremlin in the Urals Mountains deep inside Russia.

The summit organisers broadcast live footage showing a widely-smiling Ahmadinejad, wearing a dark suit but not tie, shaking hands with a beaming Medvedev before the leaders went into the second day of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.

The summit organisers also showed footage of a relaxed and smiling Iranian leader coming down the stairs of his plane as he was being met by a host of journalists and officials at a local airport.

Whether Ahmadinejad, who has a habit of stealing the limelight at international events, would turn up at the summit 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 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev but a Kremlin spokesman said that meeting has been cancelled.

His visit to Russia, Iran's key ally, 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.

Russia hopes to use the SCO summit and the first summit of Brazil, Russia, India and China -- known as the BRIC grouping of rapidly developing states -- 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.

The group also includes Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Iran has in the past expressed interest in becoming a full member and currently has observer status.

The Kremlin said that the summit's main task would be preparing a communique that would emphasise the importance of "multipolarity" in global diplomacy.

Indian Prime Manmohan Singh and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, also in attendance, were 'likely' to hold face-to-face talks 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.

"Many issues including most serious challenges our nations are facing such as terrorism and crime can only be fought by collective effort," Medvedev said.

"Afghanistan will be your full-fledged partner in this very timely and much needed endeavour," President Karzai said.

Pakistani security forces are locked in a seven-week campaign against insurgents in three northwest districts.

The attendance of China's Hu Jintao at the SCO summit kicks off a busy week of diplomacy for the Chinese head of state in Russia.

Later on Tuesday he will take part in the first official summit of the BRIC group, and then heads to Moscow for a state visit through Thursday, including a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.