Iran gives Malawi $50m mining aid
Blantyre - Iran has given $50 million in aid to develop Malawi's mining industry, the two countries said on Thursday, two days after the United States suspended an aid package following a deadly crackdown on protests.
"We have had very strong diplomatic relations and it is our obligation to support developing countries such as Malawi," Iran's charge d'affaires Bahman Ahmadi said in a statement issued by Malawi's development ministry.
"In total, the Islamic Republic of Iran has committed $400 million of development assistance to developing countries, of which $50 million will be given to Malawi," Ahmadi said in the statement.
Malawi's small mining industry is dominated by a uranium mine in the north of the country, owned by Australia's Paladin, which accounts for about five percent of gross domestic product.
"For a long time, Malawi's economy has relied heavily on agricultural production but our economy needs to diversify if we are to experience further sustained economic growth," development minister Abbie Shawa said in the statement.
"Challenges were being faced in areas of training of geological and mining experts, development of databases to store data and information that is crucial to mineral identification, exploration and processing," Shawa said.
The Iranian aid was announced two days after the United States suspended a $350-million grant for Malawi's energy sector out of concern over authorities' crackdown on street protests that left 19 dead last week.
Protesters accused President Bingu wa Mutharika of mismanaging the economy and trampling on democratic rights, but he accused the opposition of attempting a coup.
Britain, another key donor, also suspended aid to Malawi this month out of concern over economic management and governance.
Iran's uranium enrichment programme is at the centre of a bitter row between Tehran and major world powers, with the country under UN sanctions as well as tougher measures by the United States and European Union.