Friday, April 23, 2010
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday afternoon to a rapturous welcome from the Islamic and Christian communities.
President Ahmadinejad — who will today officially open the 51st edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo — was met at the Harare International Airport by his counterpart President Mugabe and several Government ministers.
The Iranian leader last night condemned "all Satanic pressures" the West were exerting on Zimbabwe and said these were doomed to fail.
His visit started with the warm welcome at the airport, where he and his wife Mrs Shrahai, were received by President Mugabe, the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, senior Government officials, service chiefs, diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe and scores of ordinary people.
President Mugabe led President Ahmadinejad to a dais where the Zimbabwe National Army played the Iranian national anthem.
The anthem was accompanied by a 21-gun salute and fly-past in diamond formation by Air Force of Zimbabwe jets.
President Ahmadinejad then inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Presidential Guard before meeting the ecstatic crowd that thronged the airport.
The two leaders proceeded to State House where they held brief talks before touring the Modzone Garment Factory in Chitungwiza.
The road to the factory was lined with Zimba-bweans and Iranians resident in the country, waving both nations’ flags and ululating.
The factory, formerly Cone Textiles, was closed in the 1990s before reopening following the establishment of a joint venture between the Zimbabwean and Iranian governments.
The factory has been completely mechanised and staff demonstrated to the two leaders how they operated some of the state-of-the-art equipment.
Presidents Mugabe and Ahmadinejad went to the Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries plant where the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces commissioned a tractor assembly plant, another joint venture between the two countries.
The joint venture, Motira, brings together Zimbabwe’s Industrial Development Corporation, the Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company and the Iran Foreign Investment Company.
Assembly plant workers also waved flags and chanted "Long live Zimbabwe, Long live Iran".
The two presidents climbed aboard one of the tractors and revved its engine while chatting.
IDC chairman Dr Charles Utete said: "This assembly plant is born out of the co-operation of our two Heads of State. It is a practical friendship."
He said they were now working on building a foundry so that Zimbabwe could manufacture some of the tractor parts for the assembly plant and he wanted the entire programme to be granted national project status.
Dr Utete said they were looking at exporting the tractors to the Sadc and Comesa markets at preferential tariffs and establish Zimbabwe as the regional hub for the production of Itemco
In an interview afterwards, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said Zimbabwe and Iran were working out the modalities of forming a joint investment company to further expand co-operation.
"This will go a very long way in consolidating our friendship," he said.
Last night, President Mugabe hosted a banquet for President Ahmadinejad before which the two leaders witnessed the signing of various agreements and Memoranda of Understanding that will further boost economic and cultural ties.
These included a Bilateral Air Services Agreement and MOUs on tourism, co-operation on youth affairs, science and technology, education, diplomatic consultations, waiver for diplomatic and service visas, establishment of a joint investment company, and one between CBZ Bank, the Finance Ministry and Iranian financial institutions.
Ministers and their representatives signed the documents.
Speaking to the media afterwards, President Mugabe said: "We hope prosperity will ensue from the various agreements signed tonight.
"Iran and Zimbabwe have established that cordial alliance which we cannot under any circumstances sever.
"President Ahmadinejad and myself have the same policy against imperialism and colonialism in order to protect our sovereignty and independence."
The Iranian leader hailed Zimbabwe for being resolute in resisting imperialism.
"Unfortunately the United Nations Security Council, which is supposed to serve the whole world, has been used by the powerful as an instrument to increase pressure on our countries . . .
"I condemn all Satanic pressures imposed on Zimbabwe and these powerful countries are doomed, they will not be successful," he said.
After opening the trade fair, President Ahmadinejad leaves for Uganda on a State visit.