Ahmadinejad blames US for financial crisis

The hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States and other world powers today of creating an "unfair" economic order which has triggered the global financial crisis. In an opening speech at a summit of the regional Economic Co-operation Organisation (ECO) in Tehran, Mr Ahmadinejad said "the United States and some of its allies are at the centre of the economic crisis". "Capitalism as a system has failed. The economic order is unfair and irresponsible. Unfortunately nations of the world have to pay the cost of inefficient policies of certain nations."

Mr Ahmadinejad, known for his anti-US tirades, called on ECO members to overcome the "threats" posed by the financial crisis and transform them into "opportunities". "The threat of unfair international order can be changed to create a safe economic situation for our countries" by developing trade between ECO member states, Mr Ahmadinejad said. He also called for setting up a common bank of ECO members that can help boost commerce among the members.

Mr Ahmadinejad himself has come under fire in Iran over his expansionary economic policies and fuelling inflation. The summit of ECO - a regional organisation founded in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey - aims to focus on the global financial crisis and its impact on the region. The Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, in his address at the summit, strongly urged ECO members to help Kabul fight drug smuggling.

"I have to accept the bitter truth that my country is the centre of opium production," Mr Karzai said. "The people of Afghanistan are the true victims of terrorism and there is a direct link between drug smuggling and terrorism. We want the (ECO) members to help us in combating them," he said, adding that Iran has already been doing so. Iran is suffering badly from the effects of opium production in Afghanistan, with easily available heroin fuelling a rise in drug use. Indeed, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed to that last week when she said Iran would be invited to a global meeting on Afghanistan to be held on March 31.

Mr Karzai's visit to Iran has gained added significance amid reports that Iran is considering attending the March 31 international conference. He is expected to push Iran to attend the conference aimed at helping world powers in restoring stability in his violence-wracked country. The Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari also urged ECO members to help Afghanistan fight terrorism. "The ECO has a special responsibility towards Afghanistan. Let us give our efforts a strong impetus" in this direction, he said, adding that Islamabad was itself "building a deep relation of trust and understanding" with Kabul.



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