Iran, Belarus to stand together against critics

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2007, 22:11 [IST]
 

MINSK, May 22 (Reuters) The leaders of Belarus and Iran, both accused of violating international norms by the United States, pledged today to act jointly to counter attempts to exert pressure on individual nations.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his country's nuclear programme denounced by Washington, called his Belarussian host Alexander Lukashenko ''brother'' at a news conference after a two-day visit to the ex-Soviet state.

Neither explicitly mentioned the United States, a frequent critic of both countries. But each vowed to help the other to fend off any hostile action linked to a position of strength.

''No one can claim a monopoly in using an advantage to exert pressure in its relations with another state,'' Ahmadinejad said alongside Lukashenko, barred from the United States and European Union over allegations of rigging his re-election last year.

''We oppose the development of a unipolar world and the use of double standards directed against us. We have agreed that we will act jointly internationally to offer each other support.'' Lukashenko, who thanked the Iranian leader for a deal allowing Belarus to extract oil in Iran's Jofeir deposit, said he would be unreserved in supporting Tehran.

''Everything we can do for Iran will be in the spirit of the understanding that Iran has for the Belarussian people,'' he told reporters.

Lukashenko, accused in the West of hounding opponents and crushing independent media, has called for Belarus to diversify its energy sources. He has boosted ties with both Iran and Venezuela, whose leftist president Hugo Chavez, also at odds with Washington, received a warm welcome last year in Minsk.

Iran is likely to be exposed to the threat of new sanctions after the UN's nuclear watchdog issues a report on Wednesday saying it has not only ignored a May 24 deadline to stop enriching uranium but expanded the programme.

US officials said six countries would start drafting a third, harsher batch of sanctions if Iran flouted the deadline.

Iran says its programme serves solely to produce electricity and rejects any suggestion that it is being used as a cover to manufacture bombs.

''We will not give in to the pressure they are trying to exert on us,'' Ahmadinejad said. ''Countries pursuing a policy of hegemonism must yield to the iron will of our peoples. We will be victorious!'' Belarus's economy was jolted in the New Year after Russia doubled gas prices and removed preferential oil tariffs.

Industry analysts say Belarus may find it difficult to fund large exploration projects abroad.

Belarus last year defended Iran's right to pursue its nuclear programme and rejected any notion of Western sanctions.

Reuters NC GC2124

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