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Nelson enlists Iran in AFN bid

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Former Manitoba chief Terry Nelson says he's running to become the new leader of the Assembly of First Nations, but his election campaign won't be confined by national borders. He's going to Iran and he wants the current national chief, Shawn Atleo, to come with him.

"I'm going to address the Iranian parliament at the end of May, and that's going to be broadcast... it's going all over the world and I'm going to extend an invitation to Shawn Atleo to come along. That's the direction I'm going in," Nelson said.

The former chief of Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation was once known as Manitoba's angriest aboriginal leader after threatening a rail blockade he leveraged into a settlement for his band's century-old land claim.

Aboriginal leaders from Manitoba are being used as pawns by the Iranian government, an official from Canada's Foreign Affairs Department said last month, when Nelson and a group of former and current Dakota chiefs visited the Iranian ambassador to Canada.

Well, if so, turnabout is fair play, Nelson said this week.

This time, he said it's not Ottawa's attention he says he wants to get: Nelson is using Iran to get the attention of First Nations chiefs.

Nelson said he hopes Muslims will see parallels between their history and that of indigenous people in Canada and help finance the campaign.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly of First Nations did not say what the response to Nelson's invitation might be. So far, no invitation's arrived, she added.

Nelson said he expects his invitation will be rebuffed, but he's also said he's being deliberately provocative to make a point for his election platform.

"If you're going to negotiate with Canada, you'd better have a financially independent chief going for you," Nelson said.

He said he's running on a platform to reject federal funding, which is the financial mainstay for operations for the AFN.

The AFN election is to be held July 17-19 in Toronto. So far, Nelson is the only candidate to declare a bid, although Atleo is widely expected to seek a second term.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2012 A12

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