Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the fifth Bali Democracy Forum on Thursday, where he gave a speech before1 heads of state on the values of democracy – despite his country being branded one of the world's worst human rights abusers.
According to Iran's Press TV, Ahmadinejad arrived in Denpasar, Bali, on Wednesday.
He was welcomed by Indonesia’s Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh.
Speaking at the opening session, the Iranian president addressed the presidential elections in the United States, denouncing the campaign – which was estimated $6 billion – as a "battleground for the capitalists."
Ahmadinejad said: "Just take a look at 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."
The Iranian president, who did not comment directly on Obama's reelection, also criticized "countries who claim to be the forerunners of democracy," saying: "Slavery, colonialism and rights abuses continue to be imposed on human beings."
Indonesian President Yudhoyono and Ahmadinejad (Photo: AFP)
Iran has long been criticized for its human rights record, including the continued use of stoning as a method of capital punishment. Increased Internet crackdowns and the jailing of political prisoners and journalists were also recently highlighted in a report by the UN's human rights expert on Iran.
Ahmadinejad's own reelection in 2009 was marred by allegations of voter fraud. Tehran erupted into violence when pro-democracy protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the election of Ahmadinejad.
Iran trying to beat isolation?
Dinna Wisnu, an international political analyst from Indonesia's Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy, said Ahmadinejad is likely attending the event to try to find a place to fit in, as the Islamic Republic's isolation within the international community is growing due to the sanctions imposed on it by the West over its nuclear program.
According to Wisnu, even if some Asian countries are not welcoming, the region as a whole is typically more accepting.
"Iran comes with its special agenda that has been planned as the country does not have a lot of friends in the Middle East," she said. "They are in a difficult position. If they are not trying to make friends in other regions, Iran will be alone."
Iranian website reports of US elections
Meanwhile on Thursday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak praised Indonesia as a Muslim nation with a thriving democracy, adding it was also encouraging to see countries like Myanmar undergo positive political reform. But he said more work needed to be done elsewhere.
"Unfortunately, we also saw how a 15-year-old Pakistani girl was shot as she promoted women's rights in her country," he said.
"Likewise, since 2003, the North Korean people can see but cannot speak, they have legs but cannot move. Human rights cannot be compromised there," he added.
The fifth Bali Democracy Forum on Indonesia's resort island comes a day after President Barack Obama was reelected in the US election.
The event is being attended by 11 heads of state, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Afghan President Hamid Karzai
AP contributed to this report
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