Accra, April 19 (IANS) Ghanian President John Dramani Mahama has defied international sanctions to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the last leg of his three-nation West African tour that also took him to Benin and Niger.
Though government sources have painted a favourable picture of the visit Tuesday and Wednesday, it was, however, low key because it did not attract the usual number of heads of missions to welcome a visiting president.
The ambassadors of the US and of the European Union countries were conspicuously absent.
During Ahmadinejad’s visit, Mahama alluded to the “historic relationship” that exists between the two countries from the days the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was formed and cited this as the reason for allowing the visit.
“We have welcomed President Ahmadinejad to Ghana as we would any president that decides to come to Ghana,” he said.
Ahmadinejad, as the current NAM chairman, had the right to come to Ghana, the president said.
There were, however, some misgivings because the decision to allow Ahmadinejad’s visit came at a time when the Ghanian Supreme Court is yet to rule on the December 2012 presidential election results that declared Mahama the winner.
Political analysts say the case is a major test of the country’s democracy.
As the Supreme Court sits on the case, Mahama celebrated his first 100 days in office and has got parliamentary approval for his cabinet.
The petition against Mahama was filed before the Supreme Court by the leader of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and two other members of the party.
Thus, Mahama’s hosting Ahmadinejad is being seen by analysts as a bid by a beleaguered leader to assert his authority.
He defended the decision by saying: “Ghana has a historic relationship with Iran and both countries have been key players in the Non-Aligned Movement. However, there have been other dimensions to President Ahmadinejad’s trip.”
Ahmadinejad’s visit to Niger has been explained as an attempt to secure uranium supplies from a country said to be the fourth largest producer in the world, while the visit to Benin is being seen to provide access to the country’s port which is used by landlocked Niger.
In Ghana, Ahmadinejad held bilateral talks and signed agreements for cooperation in educational, agriculture, tourism and youth and sports.
Iran also offered to train undergraduates in petroleum and petrochemical engineering, said Ghanaian Information and Media Relations Minister Mahama Ayariga.
There was also an agreement to collaborate in disaster management and narcotics control.
Ayariga said another aspect of the visit was that the two presidents agreed on the need to further enhance consultations aimed at achieving world peace.
“Presidents Mahama and Ahmadinejad unanimously condemned any act of terrorism anywhere in the world and urged that differences should be resolved through dialogue,” he said.
Though there has been international condemnation of Ahmadinejad for engaging in terror, the Iranian president denied the accusations at a press briefing before his departure.
“Iran has never attacked any Western country. What has happened over the years is the decision by the West to surround Iran by troops,” Ahmadinejad said.
He said the accusations against Iran stem from the country’s decision to break free from colonial domination.
Ahmadinejad described the sanctions as a price that his country had to pay for deciding to preserve its independence.
“The pressures that have been imposed on the country have created problems but not halted our progress,” he said.
In spite of these provocations, he said, Iran was making progress and that the sanctions against his country have not achieved the desired results.
“Before the sanctions, Iran was producing only 32 million tonnes of cement a year. The country currently produces 80 million tonnes, and has become a major exporter,” Ahmadinejad said.
He said Iran has also increased its steel production from nine million tonnes a year before the sanctions to 20 million tonnes now.
The country is now making use of nuclear energy in agriculture, energy and health, he said.
“After the imposition of sanctions, we have launched satellites into space and the rate of scientific research has also increased and improved the country’s achievement in nanotechnology, biotechnology as well as increased the country’s per capita income from $3,000,” Ahmadinejad added.
Though Ahmadinejad has come and gone, analysts say the political fallout, especially from Europe and the US is likely to have some effects on Ghana’s foreign policy.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at [email protected])