DUSHANBE — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on regional powers Sunday to unite against “aggression” as he gathered with his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan for security talks.
Ahmadinejad said celebrations for the Iranian New Year holiday Nowruz showed that life only improved after a “hard winter” when friends joined forces.
“Nowruz represents a battle between the forces of light against those of darkness, the fight against injustice,” Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony hosted by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and attended by some 15,000 spectators.
“Nowruz is traditionally viewed as a new day without poverty, aggression, instability, crime, discrimination, occupation and the abasement of human dignity,” Ahmadinejad said.
“All people have the right to live their life in dignity.”
Ahmadinejad was due to meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai on Monday for a formal round of talks aimed at forging a joint stance in the restive region.
The meeting is officially set to focus on providing support for the Afghan economy as the NATO presence there winds down by the end of 2014.
But Ahmadinejad has used his visit to the Tajik capital — a favoured venue for regional discussions — to ratchet up rhetoric in the face of renewed international pressure over his country’s contested nuclear drive.
“Only the friends and neighbours of Afghanistan can in practice and realistically help this nation,” Ahmadinejad said in a statement released by his office on Saturday.
“The occupiers who came to this nation from kilometres away are not here to aid the government and the people of Afghanistan but are here to loot the resources and mines of Afghanistan,” he said.
Both Zardari and Karzai gave more restrained speeches that made no reference to the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan or the United States.
Ahmadinejad’s visit came as a top US official sat down with Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani to discuss Karzai’s visit to Islamabad last month.
Washington’s regional pointman Marc Grossman has been handed the delicate mission of ensuring Iran does not use its historic ties to Pakistan to spread its influence over Afghanistan after the Western troop withdrawal is complete.
Grossman said his meeting focused on Karzai’s “very successful” visit to Islamabad which was followed by the Afghan leader’s invitation for the Taliban militia to open direct talks with his government.
The Taliban leadership broke off contacts with the United States in mid-March because of a row over a prisoner swap.
But Grossman sounded an optimistic note, saying that “we now find ourselves in a happy position of building on our momentum”.
Pakistan’s foreign minister said Islamabad remained “committed to do anything possible to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.”