ISTANBUL (AFP) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday blamed poverty in the world's least developed countries (LDCs) on the "colonial policies" of leading powers and on an unfair international economic system. "The least developed countries (LDCs) should not be treated as homeless people, they have the capability and resources," he told a UN-backed summit bringing together leaders of 48 LDCs in Istanbul. "It was colonial policies that impeded their development." "The current backwardness (of poor countries) is the result of an unfair and unbalanced international economic system," the Iranian leader added. And he railed against the unfair distribution of aid to the world's poorest nations. Ahmadinejad called for a ban on the "military and economic intervention of hegemonic powers" in other countries and proposed a monitoring mechanism to oversee the activities of central banks and treasuries of the developed world. "Investing in the LDCs can provide the stimulus that will help to propel and sustain global economic recovery and stability," said UN chief Ban Ki-moon in opening remarks to the five-day conference. "This is not a charity, it is smart investment," he added. "It is time to change our mindset, instead of seeing LDCs as the poor and weak, let us recognize these 48 countries as best reservoir of untouched potential. Investing in LDCs is an opportunity for all." LDCs countries - 33 from Africa, 14 from Asia plus Haiti - are defined as those with a per capita income of less than 745 dollars a year. Another keynote speaker at the gathering was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who blamed poverty in the LDCs on the "colonial policies" of leading powers and on an unfair international economic system. "The LDCs should not be treated as homeless people, they have the capability and resources. It was colonial policies that impeded their development," he noted. The Iranian leader said their "current backwardness" was the result of an unfair and unbalanced international economic system and he also railed against the unfair distribution of aid to the world's poor. Ahmadinejad called for a ban on the "military and economic intervention of hegemonic powers" in other countries and proposed a monitoring mechanism to oversee the activities of central banks and treasuries of the developed world. The UN secretary general meanwhile underscored the need to support agriculture in the LDCs, a sector in which 70 percent of the population is employed. "The LDCs are facing a real prospect of a new crisis in food and nutrition security," he warned. Ban later told a press conference that his organisation would set up mechanisms to monitor the delivery of aid pledges by donor countries to the LDCs. "We have received a lot of very generous pledges in the past, but not all of them have been delivered and the accountability will be very important," he said. "There shall be aid predictability from the donor countries so that the receiving countries will be able to have a better programming of their economic policies," he added. The Istanbul gathering is being chaired by Turkish President Abdullah Gul while the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, attended the opening session. "The Istanbul Programme of Action should be able to make a difference in lives of one billion people living in LDCs," said Gul, calling for a mid-term conference in 2015 to monitor the implementation of the new programme. The new Istanbul Action Programme is being negotiated in the conference after the expiry of the former Brussels plan in 2010. A key issue facing the participants is the rise in food prices in recent months, which has fuelled both economic and social turmoil in several poor countries. "The increase in food prices is a serious challenge, and also an opportunity," the UN said. World Bank Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, attending the conference as an observer, told AFP that supporting long-term farm production and developing food stocks for "humanitarian purposes" is crucial to fostering stablity in poorer nations. She also urged countries to "not impose restrictions on imports." Aid must also be targetted to countries emerging from conflict, by helping them "create jobs...and rebuild their private sector," she added. Citizens of these countries contribute only one percent to commercial activity worldwide. The UN-backed conference takes place every ten years. France hosted the first two in 1981 and 1990. The third was held in Brussels in 2001.