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Ahmadinejad heads to Africa with energy topping agenda

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embarked Sunday on a tour of the African states of Benin, Ghana and Niger, with energy deals high on the agenda, his office said.

"During our trip to Benin, Niger and Ghana, we will try to not only consolidate ties, but also take long strides in boosting comprehensive ties," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying before leaving Tehran.

"Different memorandums of understanding in the fields of energy, commerce, culture, tourism and health will be signed," the Iranian leader said without giving any details on the deals.

Ahmadinejad is to arrive in Benin on Sunday afternoon on a visit in his capacity as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries, the African country's foreign minister, Nassirou Arifari Bako, told AFP.

"Education, agriculture and, above all, energy" would be on the agenda, the minister said.

Ahmadinejad then heads to Niger on Monday for a two-day visit, the government in Niamey said.

"He will lead a large delegation and both our nations will discuss cooperation and means of strengthening it," Iran's ambassador Mohammad Nikkhah told reporters after a meeting with Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou.

He did not elaborate, but Niger is the world's fourth-largest producer of uranium, which Iran has long been seeking to acquire for its disputed nuclear drive.

Niamey recently criticised its historical agreement with France, which gets most of its uranium from the former colony, and has demanded a fairer share of the profits generated by uranium ore mining.

Ahmadinejad has previously visited 11 African countries on four trips.

Most of these have been to seek support at the United Nations, which has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme, specifically its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

Media reports said it would be his last African trip as president, since Iranians are to elect a new president in June. Constitutionally, Ahmadinejad, whose mandate ends in August, cannot run for the third consecutive term.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130414/ahmadinejad-heads-africa-energy-topping-agenda