Ahmadinejad to Join Leaders at Bali Democracy Forum

08 November, 2012 | Source: The Jakarta Globe

Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is among world leaders set to begin talks today at a democracy forum in Bali, but critics say Tehran will use the event as a platform to project international legitimacy.

The fifth Bali Democracy Forum has attracted record numbers of heads of state and government, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.

The high-profile attendees, among some 1,200 delegates at the meeting on the Indonesian resort island, reflect increasing international interest in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, at a time of lethargic global growth.

Indonesia, the world’s third most populous democracy, hopes to show off its growing clout on the world stage by hosting a range of talks and debates over two days aimed at promoting the “principles of democracy on a global scale”.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will give an address at the start of the forum on Thursday, and some of the leaders, including Ahmadinejad and Karzai, will take part in debate.

But the government-run event has been derided as a talking shop that has never produced anything beyond vague communiques, with critics saying it gives unsavory regimes a platform to falsely present themselves as legitimate.

Sanctions-hit Tehran will use it to combat its growing isolation, they say.

“The forum is opening its arms too widely to include everyone,” Aleksius Jemadu, from the school of government and global affairs at the Pelita Harapan University, told AFP.

“It is being used by some countries to show they can be part of the democratic world.”

Observers said the Iranian president, whose re-election in 2009 was marred by allegations of fraud, is attending the summit for the first time to build ties with friendly states as sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program bite.

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.

Indonesia, a moderate Muslim-majority country, has maintained strong ties with the Islamic republic.

The West claims Tehran is seeking to make an atomic bomb, while Iran claims the nuclear drive is for purely peaceful purposes.

Iran is currently chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, a grouping of 120 countries, and in August hosted a meeting of the group that it trumpeted as a triumph over the West’s attempts to isolate it.

Other high-profile participants at the Bali meeting include Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

There will be tight security for the event, with some 2,300 police officers deployed to guard key areas, about a month after the resort island held 10th anniversary commemorations for nightclub bombings that killed 202 people.


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