afrol News, 22 April - After years and months of unsuccessful presentations to have sanctions lifted against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his top aides, the Southern African firebrand has found comfort in the Middle East, against the taste of his opposition mates in the unity government.
President Mugabe is today hosting the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where the two are expected to sign several high-level cooperation deals that would include agriculture and mining production.
Zimbabwe has run out of friends since its political crisis and economic slide, which saw the country experience a record hyperinflation, with the Western leaders pointing at the lack of trust on Mr Mugabe for the unity government to push on.
On the other hand, the faction of President Mugabe in the unity government has opted for unlikely partnerships and friends viewed in a skewed way by the opposition and the West, in their quest to boost economic recovery and transformation.
The Iranian leader has recently earned a hate reputation amongst the Western leaders for his stubbornness and insistence on the country's uranium enrichment and nuclear programme.
The Zimbabwean opposition - with its leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change - were opposed to the visit saying it would paint a bad picture of Zimbabwe to Western nations, many of whom have extended sanctions against Zimbabwe.
"His visit will definitely send a wrong message about the kind of company that we keep at a time when the people of Africa and the rest of the world have begun to see us as a nation working hard to restore democracy and good governance ...we want to place on record that, judging by his record, Ahmadinejad is coming not as a friend of Zimbabwe but as an ally of those who unilaterally invited him," Mr Tsvangirai's MDC party declared in a statement.
A planned protest march by the opposition yesterday was crushed by the riot police, who reportedly attacked commuters in the capital city of Harare.
While in Zimbabwe, President Ahmadinejad will also officiate the opening of Zimbabwe's Trade Fair on Friday in Bulawayo, the country's second city and an MDC stronghold.
His visit was preceded by a high level meeting of Iranian officials and their Zimbabwean counterparts, where it is also reported that an invitation was extended to President Mugabe to the next month's G15 summit to be hosted in Teheran.
Despite protests by the opposition officials, ZANU-PF government officials have confirmed the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the two countries while also saying Zimbabwe and Iran will work towards the formation of joint ventures in the agriculture, manufacturing, mining and water management sectors.
"The joint commission agreed to establish a joint investment company to identify and implement projects of mutual benefit to the two countries including in the areas of banking, finance and insurance," a communiqué issued after the Wednesday meeting said.
The Iranian leader's visit to Zimbabwe and other African countries, which will include Uganda, comes despite the opening of the country's 15th international exhibition of oil, gas and petrochemical industries and products which opened in Tehran yesterday.
The show and trust was left to Iran's First Vice-President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi and Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi to oversee the five-day show considered the biggest in the oil and gas sector in the Middle East and second largest in the world.
In a message to the exhibition, Minister Mirkazemi stated that a few countries have deprived themselves of investment in Iran's oil and gas sector as they have ignored Iran's key position in the energy field.
"The interest shown by hundreds of international firms from across the world to participate in Tehran International Oil and Gas Exhibition proves the failure of those countries that have sanctioned themselves, ignoring Iran's role in the energy sector," Mr Mirkazemi said.
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