Iran president on controversial visit to Zimbabwe

Thu Apr 22, 2010 3:10pm GMT

By Marius Bosch

HARARE (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a visit to Zimbabwe on Thursday condemned by President Robert Mugabe's opponents as a meeting of despots which could further isolate Harare.

Ahmadinejad, whose government is pursuing a nuclear programme despite threats of more United Nations sanctions, was invited by Mugabe to open Zimbabwe's annual trade fair.

There was no official indication of any link between the two-day visit and Iran's nuclear programme, but Zimbabwe does hold uranium deposits which have yet to be exploited.

Zimbabwean state media said Ahmadinejad's visit was part of a drive to strengthen ties between countries at odds with the West.

Ahmadinejad was met at Harare's international airport by Mugabe, cabinet ministers and diplomats, amid singing and chants from hundreds of Zimbabwean muslims waving Iranian flags.

Mugabe's old foe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and ministers from his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) did not attend the welcoming ceremony.

The MDC has called the visit a "colossal political scandal" and it could increase tensions in the power-sharing government set up last year to try to end a decade of political crisis.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) attacked Ahmadinejad over his record on human rights and other issues.   Continued...

<p>Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) welcomes his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe during an official welcoming ceremony in Tehran November 20, 2006. REUTERS/Caren Firouz</p>
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