Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

China Ready to Admit Iran to Asian Bloc

By Aussiegirl

Once China has achieved "co-existence" with the US on the world stage, next comes dominance.

China Ready to Admit Iran to Asian Bloc -- 04/19/2006

By Patrick Goodenough

(CNSNews.com) - An Asian security and economic bloc driven largely by China may soon open its doors to Iran and other contenders for membership, a move that may help to "make the world more fair," a senior Iranian official said.

The move comes at a sensitive time in the international dispute over Iran's suspect nuclear activities. While the U.S. seeks to isolate Iran, China and Russia oppose any steps by the U.S. and others to pressure Tehran to back away from its nuclear program.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which currently comprises China, Russia and four Central Asian republics, is preparing for a mid-year summit that is expected to enlarge the group, reform its secretariat, and possibly refocus its agenda.

Iran and three other observer nations -- Pakistan, India and Mongolia -- will soon be invited to join as full members, SCO Secretary General Zhang Deguang said last week.

If they do join, the SCO will stretch from the Pacific to the Caucasus and include the world's most populous countries, fastest-growing economies, and some of its biggest oil and gas producers. [...]

Its main focus has been regional security and the fight against separatism and extremism, but last year witnessed a shift linked by some analysts to Beijing's opposition to American "hegemony" and wariness about U.S. presence near its western flank. [...]

Writing in the Eurasia Daily Monitor on Tuesday, Central Asian expert Roger McDermott said China was using the SCO "to advance its own geopolitical interests within the region," a region in which he says "Beijing wants to minimize Western influence." [...]

SCO members have carried out joint military and counter-terror maneuvers, and member states' defense ministers are due to meet at the end of April.

Russia's permanent envoy to the grouping, Grigory Logvinov, said Tuesday that although there were no plans to turn the SCO into a military bloc, "as threats of terrorism, extremism and separatism have increased, substantial involvement of armed forces is necessary to combat them effectively."


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