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Indonesia supports Iran's Nuclear programme

Written by: Staff

Jakarta, May 10 : Indonesia is rolling out the red carpet for Iran's outspoken President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrived early today for a visit overshadowed by the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear policies.

Iran is under pressure to rein in a nuclear programme it says is for peaceful purposes but some Western countries fear is really aimed at developing weapons. The United States is pushing for UN action on the issue.

US President George W Bush received an 18-page letter from Ahmadinejad on Monday, the first publicly announced personal communication from an Iranian president to his US counterpart since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Washington has shrugged it off as a move to divert attention from the nuclear issue.

Ahmadinejad's visit ''will be the first opportunity for us to hear directly about Iran's response to the solutions that have been proposed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council,'' Media Indonesia newspaper reported Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda as saying yesterday.

That includes the letter to Bush, he said.

''We support the development of nuclear programmes for peaceful purposes. This is the sovereign right of every nation.

But we have been consistently against the proliferation of nuclear weapons,'' Wirajuda added.

The prime purpose of Ahmadinejad's visit is not the nuclear issue but development of economic ties.

Iran is in the process of investing several billion dollars in the oil and gas sector of fellow Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member Indonesia and both countries are eager to boost trade.

Given that, and with Indonesia's government walking a tightrope between friendship with the West and a political need not to offend the country's overwhelming Muslim majority, Jakarta is unlikely to push Ahmadinejad very hard on the nuclear issue. The Iranian meets Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono today, as well as the country's vice president and other officials.

Yudhoyono hosts Ahmadinejad at a state dinner this evening, and his Jakarta itinerary tomorrow day and Friday includes meetings with parliamentarians, business executives and Muslim leaders.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country. An estimated 85 per cent of its 220 million people are Muslims.

While most are considered moderate, there is an increasingly vocal militant minority, and on West Asia policy Indonesians generally sympathise with the Palestinians and opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq, as did the Indonesian government.

On Friday afternoon, Ahmadinejad is due to fly to Bali for a meeting of the Developing Eight group that also includes Indonesia, Nigeria, Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Economic development, including peaceful uses of nuclear energy, figure high on the agenda for the meeting, which will end on Saturday.


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