Ahmadinejad to snub SCO meeting: Russian source

Prez Ahmadinejad plans to stay away from a meeting of Shanghai group this week as ties between Moscow and Tehran fray over Iran`s nuclear programme.

Moscow: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans
to stay away from a meeting of the Shanghai group this week as
ties between Moscow and Tehran fray over Iran`s nuclear
programme, a high-ranking Russian source said.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional
security group set up as an alternative to NATO in 2001, will
hold a meeting in Uzbekistan on Thursday and Friday when it
will consider opening its doors to new members.

Besides heavyweights Russia and China, the group also
includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Several countries, including Iran, India and Pakistan, hold
observer status and have in the past expressed interest in
joining the regional grouping.

"The Iranian President will not be there," a high-ranking
Russian diplomatic source told reporters in comments released
today.

He said Iran planned to send a delegation to the summit
but refused to say why Ahmadinejad himself chose to stay away
from the group, which his country wants to join.

Ahmadinejad is due to hold talks with President Emomali
Rakhmon in the Tajik capital Dushanbe today and attend a
UN-sponsored conference on resource security. On Thursday he
will head to China for a visit to the Shanghai Expo.

"Iran`s President will not be flying from Dushanbe to
Tashkent to take part in the SCO. Ahmadinejad will be flying
on Thursday morning from Dushanbe to Shanghai for the Expo,"
an Iranian diplomat told in Dushanbe.

The diplomat, who was travelling in Ahmadinejad`s
delegation, declined to comment on Ahmadinejad`s reasons for
not attending the conference.

PTI