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Bali Democracy Forum begins: Ahmadinejad slams big-spending US polls after Obama win

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the United States Thursday to stop interfering around the world and dismissed its elections as a "battleground for the capitalists." But he was also quoted as saying that Iran's stand-off with the West over its disputed nuclear programme must be solved with the United States.

Ahmadinejad, whose own 2009 disputed re-election sparked protests that were brutally crushed, told a forum in Bali island intended to promote democracy that the Western system meant only the wealthy few held power. At the start of the two-day Bali Democracy Forum, attended by leaders including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Iranian president criticised the situation in Europe and the US.

"An election, which is one of the manifestations of the people's will, has become a battleground for the capitalists, and an excuse for hefty spending," he said, speaking a day after US President Barack Obama was re-elected. An estimated $6 billion was spent in US federal races, making the 2012 general election the most expensive poll in American history, experts have said.

Ahmadinejad said there were social problems and rights abuses "even in countries who claim to be the forerunners of democracy," without singling out any particular nation for criticism. He also dismissed the outcome of the American election as unimportant and urged the US to withdraw from military bases around the world and end its "spirit of intervention and interference" in other countries.

"Coming or going, winning or losing, is not important. The important thing is the (US) policies and behaviours and these behaviours must change," he said. He also insisted that Iran's disputed nuclear programme, which has led to crippling international sanctions, was for peaceful purposes. The West suspects Iran is trying to make an atomic bomb. Iran's IRNA news agency, meanwhile, quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that the nuclear dispute "must be solved within the framework of relations between Iran and the United States."

"All member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency and even those that belong to the 5+1 group of nations clearly tell us that Iran must solve this problem with the United States," he added.

Attending the summit "fits in perfectly with the Iranian government strategy of building bridges" with countries outside the West, Amnesty International Iran researcher Drewery Dyke told AFP. Turkey and Afghanistan led calls at the forum for reform of the UN Security Council.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the current set-up of the council, which has five veto-wielding members and 10 non-permanent members with no veto, meant it was up to five countries "to decide on the fate of humanity." Erdogan said the Syrian regime, which is fighting an armed rebellion that has claimed thousands of lives, was "encouraged by this bottleneck in the international system." Russia and China have vetoed resolutions on Syria. Other high-profile participants at the Bali meeting include Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012


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