Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, is beginning a visit to West Africa that will take him to Benin, Ghana and Niger, the world's fourth-largest uranium producer, Iranian media have reported.

The Fars news agency said Ahmadinejad's trip would begin on Sunday and that he would meet the presidents of the three countries and sign agreements to develop economic and political relations.

Ahmadinejad is to arrive in Benin on Sunday afternoon on an official visit in his capacity as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries, the country's foreign minister, Nassirou Arifari Bako, told the AFP news agency.

"Education, agriculture and, above all, energy" will be on the agenda, the minister said.

Ahmadinejad then heads to Niger on Monday for a two-day visit, the government in Niamey said.

"He will lead a large delegation and both our nations will discuss cooperation and means of strengthening it," Iran's ambassador told reporters after a meeting with Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou.

Mohammad Nikkhah said the visit would be a turning point in bilateral ties and would yield "excellent opportunities that will benefit both peoples".

He did not elaborate, but Niger is one of the world's top producers of uranium, which Iran has long been seeking to acquire for its controversial nuclear programme.

Niger has recently criticised its historical agreement with France, which gets most of its uranium from the former colony, and has demanded a fairer share of the profits generated by uranium ore mining.

Niger's foreign minister visited Tehran in February.

It was not immediately clear when Ahmadinejad would go to Ghana.

Ahmadinejad has previously visited 11 African countries on four trips.

Most of these have been to seek support for Iran at the United Nations, which has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme, specifically its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

On Tuesday, Iran unveiled a new uranium production facility and two mines, only days after talks with world powers on its disputed nuclear programme again ended in deadlock in Kazakhstan.

Source: Agencies