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Ahmadinejad Blames Economic Woes on West at Tehran Summit


Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke Wednesday at the opening of the Economic Cooperation Organization summit in Tehran that brings together 10 regional countries.

President Ahmadinejad blamed the West for the global economic meltdown, declaring that capitalism has failed and that the capitalist system was close to collapse.

"After the collapse of the closed socialist economy," he said, "the capitalist economy is also on the brink of disintegration, and despite all the efforts taken to save capitalism, the situation is hopeless. It is clear that the same principles which have triggered the collapse cannot be used to reverse it."

Mr. Ahmadinejad noted that capitalist organizations across the world have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the market to save major corporations and banks but they have not yet admitted that capitalism has failed.

During Wednesday's summit, Mr. Ahmadinejad also called for greater regional economic integration and urged member states to begin discussing the establishment of a single currency and a bank that would promote trade. Iran's closest neighbors and key trading partners, include Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is up for re-election in June, has repeatedly lashed out at the West for the current financial crisis. But he has been under fire at home for Iran's economic woes.

Iran has inflation in the mid-20 percent range and chronic unemployment, which stands at about 30 percent by unofficial estimates.

Iran expert Ali Nourizadeh pointed out that Iran itself has practiced free-market capitalism since the Iranian Revolution, and that Mr. Ahmadinejad has completely mismanaged the Iranian economy.

"Mismanagement of the economy is Mr. Ahmadinejad's number one crime, as is mentioned not only by his critics but also by his followers and supporters in all political quarters. Mr. Ahmadinejad is the luckiest president or the luckiest politician since the creation of the Islamic Republic, and has had $300 billion in his hand in the past three-and-a-half years with the price of oil jumping to $140 per barrel," Nourizadeh said.

"Therefore, Mr. Ahmadinejad has to come and answer to the Iranian parliament and to the people what he had done with the money. The parliament has found out that there is $1 billion missing from the previous budget and there is also $800 million which they received from selling Iranian gas and this money had not been recorded by the Central Bank," he added.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai also addressed the ECO summit, asking members to help his country fight the opium trade, confessing that he had to "accept the bitter truth that his country is the center of opium production."

International observers are expecting Mr. Karzai to urge his Iranian counterparts to attend a March 31 conference on Afghanistan, which will focus on restoring stability to the war-torn nation.

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