Iranian leader jets in with 200-member delegation

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By David Ochami

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinijhad arrived for a two-day visit to discuss trade ties and sign a bilateral agreement with President Kibaki.

This is the second visit by an Iranian president in 12 years.

Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was the last to come in 1996.

Kibaki invited the Iranian leader for the State visit, on the sidelines of last September’s UN General Assembly.

The Kibaki administration has intensified contacts with Eastern and Middle East nations, including China and Turkey.

Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul visited last week.

Besides the Sh38.5 billion volume of trade between the two nations, Kenya’s exports, mostly tea, stand at Sh4.2 billion annually and the Iranians have recently won tenders to establish an electricity plant and road in central and western Kenya.

Shia Iran’s push for influence in Africa includes promises to export subsidised oil to Kenya and undertakings to build chemical, pharmaceutical plants and a tractor factory.

Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister Manoucher Mottaki, two other ministers and an entourage of about 200 businessmen, technocrats and bureaucrats, accompanies Ahmedinijad.

All was not well, however, as when the Iranians’ plane touched down at 5.15pm yesterday, Kibaki’s guards manhandled Iranian state journalists and officials at the JKIA.

Some enraged Iranians fought back and scuffled with the Kenyans who tried to deny them opportunity to take photographs as the Iranian leader greeted Kenyan officials and inspected a guard of honour. He arrived on Tuesday.

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