TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's president blamed the West on Wednesday for the global economic meltdown, saying capitalism had failed.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at the opening of the Economic Cooperation Organization summit in Tehran that brings together 10 regional countries including Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
"The capitalist economy is on the verge of collapse. Capitalism as a system has failed," Ahmadinejad told the summit. "The free market economy has failed." Instead, the hard-line leader called for a new world economic system to replace capitalism that is based on respecting human rights.
Ahmadinejad is known for lashing out at the West, but his rhetoric has also gotten him in trouble back home. Some believe he has spent too much time slamming the West and not enough trying to fix Iran's domestic problems.
The president, who is up for re-election in June, has been criticized by many conservatives and reformists for his mismanagement of the economy. Iran has double-digit inflation and chronic unemployment, which stands at about 30 percent by unofficial estimates.
The plunge in world oil prices also has been a blow, even as the annual growth remains at 5 percent.
Last month, the Washington-based PFC Energy, a leading consulting firm, sharply criticized Ahmadinejad. It said he followed "misguided priorities" in boosting spending and failing to save some of the oil windfall before price collapsed.
During Wednesday's summit, Ahmadinejad also called for greater regional economic integration and urged member states to establish a bank that would promote trade.