Russia welcomes Ahmadinejad in his first visit abroad since elections

Russia welcomed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday on his first trip abroad since his bitterly disputed re-election, a show of support for a leader facing massive protests at home and questions from the West about the legitimacy of the vote count Ahmadinejad arrived in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg and sat down for talks at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia, China and four Central Asian nations. Iran has observer status in the grouping, widely seen as a counterbalance to U.S. interest in the region. A senior Russian diplomat hailed Ahmadinejad's visit as evidence of strong ties between Russia and Iran. "It's quite symbolic that the Iranian president arrived in Russia on his first foreign visit since re-election," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said at a briefing. "We see that as a sign that the Russian-Iranian relations will advance further."