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The Christian Science Monitor
By Fred Weir, Staff Writer / June 15, 2011
There aren't many places Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the politically embattled president of Iran can go these days to find a receptive audience.
But the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Central Asian security and trade group dominated by Russia and China, is unencumbered with any official US allies among its members and always seems up for a rip-roaring denunciation of the US and all its works by the diminutive Iranian leader.
Upon arriving in Kazakhstan's capital of Astana to attend the SCO's annual summit, where Iran is only an official observer, President Ahmadinejad did not disappoint observers awaiting his fireworks.
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"All opinion polls show that the US is the worst country in the world. People everywhere regard this country as their own enemy," he said in one meeting.
He called on the SCO to take a more active role in undermining the US-led global system of "slavers and colonizers" and replacing it with a more just order.
"I believe together we can reform the way the world is managed. We can restore the tranquility of the world," he told the assembled SCO leaders, including Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and China's President Hu Jintao.
Less impressed with Iran?
But experts say that Russia, which was once Iran's chief arms supplier and political supporter, has soured on its former partner since Mr. Medvedev came to power and began seeking better relations with the West.
Last year, Russia cut off all major arms sales to Iran and backed tough United Nations sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to give up its alleged drive to obtain nuclear weapons.
Even China, still a key economic partner of Iran, appears to be losing patience.
In a sideline meeting with Ahmadinejad, Mr. Hu called upon Iran to "take substantial steps in respect of establishing trust" and "speed up the process of dialogue," in international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program.
Russian experts say listening to an Ahmadinejad speech is a small price to pay for keeping some diplomatic lines open with Iran which, no matter how it is viewed, is an extremely important regional player.
"Iran understands that Russia doesn't want to see it pushed into a corner and completely isolated," says Georgi Mirsky, an expert with the official Institute of World Economy and Economic Relations in Moscow. "The sanctions against Iran are not working. So there needs to be other avenues."