Kuala Lumpur, Mar 1: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad today (Mar 1, 2006) takes his international campaign to win support for his country's nuclear programme to Malaysia, an influential Muslim nation with strong United Nations (US) ties.
Malaysia chairs both the world's largest grouping of Muslim nations, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement and has given Iran moral support for what Tehran insists is a peaceful nuclear programme.
"We will be briefing the Malaysian side on Iran's peaceful nuclear technology achievements and the purpose of its activities," an Iranian embassy official told Reuters.
Iran has been reported to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions, after failing to convince the world its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful. Tehran flatly denies accusations that it is trying to develop nuclear arms.
Ahmadinejad is to arrive in the Malaysian capital for a two-day state visit to night. He had stopped in Kuwait on Monday to reassure Gulf Arab states on the nuclear row, saying Iran was a 'good neighbour' that wanted regional stability.
Yesterday, his Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, spelt out the Iranian position on a visit to Japan, saying Tehran had the same right as Tokyo to develop nuclear power.
The board of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is set to meet next Monday for talks that are likely to pave the way for the Security Council to debate possible action, including sanctions, against Iran.
Among Muslim nations, Malaysia has been one of Iran's stronger supporters, along with South Africa and Cuba, which have led the Non-Aligned Movement's call for the IAEA to adopt a balanced and even-handed approach to the Iran nuclear issue.
Malaysia is building stronger economic ties with Iran and they generated total trade of 2.5 billion ringgit (670 million dillars) in the first 11 months of 2005, according to Malaysian data.
Malaysia's state oil company, Petronas, has invested heavily in exploration and development of Iran's gas reserves.
Petronas has 40 per cent of Phase 11 of Iran's giant South Pars field, which sits on the largest reservoir of natural gas in the world, and has 10 per cent of the 2-billion dollars Pars liquefied natural gas project, which will receive its gas feed from Phase 11.
Petronas will not be signing any agreements during Ahmedinejad's visit, a source close to the company said.
A memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed on trade, between the Export-Import Bank of Malaysia and the Export Guarantee Fund of Iran, the embassy official said, adding that several commercial agreements were also set to announced.
These included an agreement for Malaysian construction firm Perembun to build an outer-ring road in southern Tehran, for Malaysia's Southern Renewables to invest in a project using waste to generate electricity and for Malaysia's Amuna Group to work on a project for Iran's housing ministry.