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Iran's nuclear ambitions overshadow Muslim summit


BALI, Indonesia (AP) - The standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions overshadowed trade talks opening on Bali Saturday between leaders of Muslim-majority countries, with snipers on rooftops, anti-terror squads patrolling the resort and security posts on the beach.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to discuss ways to boost economic and political cooperation, alleviate poverty, restructure debt and develop alternative energy sources.

Heads of state from Nigeria, Turkey and Malaysia and government ministers from Egypt and Bangladesh also took part in the daylong Developing Eight summit on Indonesia's tropical Bali island, which has been hit in recent years by a series of al-Qaida-linked terrorist attacks.

Though Iran's nuclear crisis was not officially on the agenda, Ahmadinejad sought support from his Islamic brothers on the sidelines. He says his country's nuclear program was only aimed at generating energy, but Washington believes the real purpose is to build weapons.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said after holding a hastily arranged meeting with the Iranian leader that he supported a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

"Dialogue is the best way," he told reporters before slipping back into the main conference room. "We should not create another crisis."

Fears that Iran was trying to build nuclear warheads were aggravated Friday, when diplomats said UN inspectors may have found traces of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium on equipment from an Iranian research centre linked to the military.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging the confidential information, cautioned that they were still awaiting confirmation from other laboratory tests.

Ahmadinejad vowed to continue to fight the West for the right to develop new technologies, saying this every country's right and in the interests of the D-8, which represent 14 per cent of the world's population.

The meeting on Bali occurred eight months after suicide bombers walked into three crowded restaurants, killing 20 people. The deadly strike blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network, followed twin nightclub bombings in 2002 that killed 202 mostly foreign tourists.

Security was tight, with snipers stationed on rooftops and the top floor of the five-star beach-side hotel that was hosting the meeting. Bags were X-rayed, anti-terror police dressed in black patrolled the grounds, and makeshift military posts were stationed along the beach.

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