A senior Iranian Foreign Ministry official called for stronger ties between the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), saying that such interregional economic cooperation can help end the developing countries' dependence on the western powers.Addressing a conference here in Tehran on cooperation between ECO and Mercosur, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Ali Ahani pointed to the rich oil and gas reserves as well as natural resources in the two organizations' member states, and noted that closer ties between ECO and Mercosur will enable them to play an influential role in global developments. He added that such cooperation would boost the member states' bargaining power. "I hope that countries of the two regions use their huge and potential capacities for joint cooperation in a bid to prepare the necessary grounds and conditions for the establishment of a just and fair international system and more welfare of their own nations through relying and believing in their very vast capabilities," the Iranian deputy foreign minister stated. ECO is an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the member states. The organizations' members include the Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamic State of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kazakhstan, Republic of Kyrgyzstan, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Turkey, Republic of Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan. Mercosur (Southern Common Market) is an economic and political agreement among Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Founded in 1991 by the Treaty of Asuncion, it was later amended and updated by the 1994 Treaty of Ouro Preto. Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency. The official languages are Portuguese, Guarani and Spanish. It has been updated, amended, and changed many times since. It is now a full customs union. Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations are customs unions that are components of a continuing process of South American integration connected to the Union of South American Nations. Mercosur origins trace back to 1985 when Presidents Raul Alfonsin of Argentina and José Sarney of Brazil signed the Argentina-Brazil Integration and Economics Cooperation Program or PICE. The program also proposed the Gaucho as a currency for regional trade. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru currently have associate member status. Venezuela signed a membership agreement on 17 June 2006. The founding of the Mercosur Parliament was agreed at the December 2004 presidential summit. It should have 18 representatives from each country by 2010, regardless of population. In September Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi voiced Tehran's willingness to join the Southern Common Market, Mercosur, and asked Paraguay to support Iran's bid to become an observer state in the market. Salehi made the announcement in a meeting with his Paraguayan counterpart on the sidelines of the 66th UN General Assembly session in New York.