(RIA Novosti) - Energy, anti-terrorism and Iran were the focus of a regional summit Thursday as the leaders from six nations gathered in Shanghai.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which was set up as a group dealing in security and confidence-building measures, returned to its roots at a fifth-anniversary summit with three anti-terrorism agreements. But energy proposals and a discussion of the status of its four observer nations highlighted how it has evolved since 2001, reports Trend.
Iran was perhaps predictably one of the dominant themes given the international furor over its controversial nuclear programs. Suggestions that it would join the six full members of the Shanghai club - Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - were downplayed in the run-up to the summit, especially after criticism from the United States.
Earlier in the month U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressed his surprise that "the leading terrorist nation in the world" was being invited into "an organization that says it's against terror."
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attempted to belie his reputation as a hard-liner by denying that Tehran had any aggressive intentions.
"Iran is in favor of international peace and international security based on justice and respect for the approaches of all nations," he said.
The Iranian leader also called on SCO countries - the three other observer nations are Mongolia, Pakistan and India - to cooperate in the use of their natural resources given that the club covered half the Earth.
And it was an idea that Russia's President Vladimir Putin seemed to endorse with a proposal establishing an energy grouping within the organization, which not only includes three of the world's biggest oil exporters but also the global no.2 consumer.
"I believe that creating a SCO energy club is a pressing issue, as is more intensive cooperation in transport and communications," Putin said, adding that said Russia could finance some economic projects pursued by the six-nation regional forum.
In talks following the official gathering, Ahmadinejad told Putin that Russia, which is already building a nuclear plant in the Islamic Republic, and Iran could closely cooperate in setting prices for natural gas and highlighted the huge potential for bilateral trade.
Putin responded positively saying that there were many promising areas of interaction, including in energy and communications.
"I know our companies are holding talks to unite efforts in the oil and gas sphere, including on the establishment of a joint venture," he said. "We support this initiative of our Iranian partners."
The Russian leader also urged the SCO to intensify anti-terrorism efforts and called for an anti-drugs body to be set up.
"We need to develop the potential of our organization in the fight against terrorism and extremism," he said. "Defense agencies should be actively involved."
Putin said the agencies had to work to meet targets agreed at an April meeting of SCO defense ministers and added that the organization was ready to work closely on counter-terrorism measures with other nations and associations.
At a meeting in Beijing, SCO defense ministers agreed to hold anti-terrorism exercises involving all the organization's members in Russia in 2007 and the six leaders signed three documents in the sphere in Shanghai.
The agreements establish regulations for conducting joint anti-terrorism operations in member countries, on identifying and closing routes used by terrorists and extremists to infiltrate them and on information protection within the SCO's regional anti-terrorism structure.
Putin also called for greater coordination in the fight against drug-trafficking, a particularly acute problem for the organization's four Central Asian nations, which smugglers often use to transit heroin from troubled Afghanistan.
"The organization could develop a mechanism for coordinating the fight against drug trafficking," Putin said. "The agencies concerned could agree on this in the near future."
President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov expressed his concern over the "escalation of narcotics production in Afghanistan" and said that the coalition forces deployed in Afghanistan were extremely ineffective in their attempts to tackle the problem.
Under the chairmanship of the host, Chinese leader Hu Jintao, the SCO summit also reviewed the five years of the organization's activities, exchanged opinions on international and regional affairs and drew up plans for further development.