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Tehran summit takes aim at US, West

Foreign ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) states attend a meeting in Tehran on August 28, 2012 ahead of a summit which will gather dozens of heads of state. Condemnation of “unilateral” actions -- particularly sanctions on Iran and other nations -- and a demand for greater say in UN decision-making dominated talks in Tehran ahead of the Non-Aligned summit later this week. AFP Photo

TEHRAN: Leaders from many of the world's developing states will gather in Tehran from Thursday for a two-day summit expected to sharply attack the policies of the United States and other top developed countries.

Host nation Iran, in particular, is hailing the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting as a blow to Western efforts to isolate it over its disputed nuclear activities.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will open the summit with a speech to more than 30 heads of state or government, including Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi, and the leaders of India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Sudan and Zimbabwe, according to organisers.

North Korea, Venezuela and Syria -- all Iranian allies -- will be represented by senior officials but not their top leaders.

Key issues on the agenda include: a condemnation of Western sanctions on Iran and other NAM countries, a new push to quell the conflict in Syria, and a reaffirmation of calls to make UN decision-making more globally democratic.

Support for the creation of a Palestinian state, and discussion of terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation and human rights will also feature, according to documents considered by foreign ministers and experts earlier this week in preparation.

As he left for Tehran on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to the NAM's desire to see power shifted from the UN Security Council to the broader UN General Assembly.

“The outdated structures of global governance have not been able to keep pace with contemporary political and economic challenges” and reform was needed, he said.

Singh added that he would also hold bilateral meetings with Iranian leaders. India is the second-biggest buyer after China of Iranian oil, which is hit by Western sanctions.

The NAM, created in 1961 by a group of nations that saw themselves as nonaligned with Cold War rivals the United States and the Soviet Union, today counts 120 nations, including “Palestine”.

It represents nearly two-thirds of the UN's 193 member states -- which explains why UN chief Ban Ki-moon will be also present in Tehran as an observer, despite criticism from Israel and the United States.

Ban will meet Khamenei, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials and press them to take “urgent” action on their nuclear drive and on human rights.

Other observers to the summit include envoys from Russia and China -- and fromAustralia, which is vying for a temporary UN Security Council seat.

Morsi's appearance will be the first time a leader from Egypt has set foot in Iran since 1975. The two countries broke diplomatic ties in 1979, the year Cairo took in Iran's toppled shah following the Islamic revolution, and signed a peace accord with Israel.

Morsi will be staying just four hours in Tehran, according to his spokesman.

That will be enough time to transfer the three-year NAM presidency from Egypt to Iran, but likely not enough to establish the sort of ties that Iran wants with the Islamist-minded Egyptian president.

Morsi is also expected to promote his idea of a contact group on Syria that would include regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, which are supporting the opposite sides in the Syrian conflict.

With the Palestinian cause one of the recurring themes of NAM meetings, Iran has also had to step carefully, excluding allied Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya to avoid a boycott by Haniya's internationally recognised rival, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.


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