Iran primes summit amid high security
TEHRAN - Agence France Presse
Senior official delegations attend the opening session of the expert-level meeting of XVI summit of the Non-Alligned Movement in Tehran on August 26, 2012. AFP PhotoFormidable security surrounded a meeting in Tehran on Monday of officials from Non-Aligned Movement nations preparing for a summit later this week that Iran is determined to use to bolster its international status.
Some 110,000 police were deployed across the country, but especially in the capital, where they were manning street corners and hundreds of vehicle inspection stops.
The heavy security underlined the authorities' resolve to ensure no incident upstages an event they were portraying as a diplomatic coup against US-led pressure.
"God willing, a glorious holding of the summit will mark a victory for Iran in the media-political battle" against the West, the head of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, told the Guards' website Sepah News.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is expected to reinforce that message when he opens the two-day NAM summit on Thursday.
NAM foreign ministers were on Tuesday to take over from their aides to finesse the details of the summit, which will bring together heads of state and government from more than 30 countries, according to organisers.
The NAM, a Cold War grouping founded in 1961, has 120 members representing most of the developing world and which see themselves as independent of Washington and Moscow influence.
Although the organisation had increasingly been seen as an anachronism in the past couple of decades, Iran is seeking to revive it as a counterweight to perceived domineering by permanent UN Security Council members Britain, France, China, Russia and -- especially -- the United States.
"We share the concern of many members that the UN Security Council has increasing power in the face of decreasing power in the (UN) General Assembly," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday as he opened the NAM preparatory meetings.
He backed a longstanding call for reform of the Security Council.
Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy chief of the Islamic republic's armed forces, told Sepah News that the NAM must create "an atmosphere to influence the United Nations and revise the veto rights of the permanent members of the Security Council."
Syria a key issue
NAM delegations, however, were likely to have their attention focused on more pressing issues, chiefly Syria.
The vicious, 17-month conflict tearing Iran's ally apart has confounded several diplomatic quests to find a solution.
Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi, is to make another stab during the summit by talking about his idea of a contact group on Syria including Iran -- which backs the Damascus regime -- and Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- which support the Syrian opposition.
"If this group succeeds, Iran would be part of the solution and not the problem," Morsi's spokesman Yassir Ali told reporters on Sunday.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not be going to Tehran, but will send his prime minister and foreign minister, according to a prominent Iranian MP, Aladin Borujerdi, who saw him in Damascus on Sunday.
But Assad said "he would welcome efforts Iran can make to solve Syria's problems," on condition that countries supporting Syria's rebels "exert pressure on them to stop the bloodshed and violence," Borujerdi told Iran's state broadcaster IRIB.
Morsi's presence in Iran will be notable because it will be the first by an Egyptian leader since diplomatic relations were broken in 1979, after Cairo hosted Iran's toppled shah and signed a peace accord with Israel.
But Ali said Morsi's visit in Tehran would last just "a few hours" and "no other subject is expected" to be broached, specifically any concerning the resumption of diplomatic ties.
Iran is also keen to use the summit to gather support for what it calls its "legitimate rights" to nuclear activities, which are the source of a showdown between it and the West.
But UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who is to participate in the summit as an observer, aims to "convey the clear concerns and expectations of the international community" on that and other issues, according to his spokesman.
Iran's defence of the Palestinians was also certain to be raised.
Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have repeatedly called Israel a "cancerous tumour" that should be excised from the Middle East, with "Palestine" replacing it.
But in a gesture of political expediency, Iran on Sunday stated the only Palestinian representative invited to the summit was Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
It specifically excluded Abbas's Gaza rival, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, who subsequently said he had decided to not attend despite being invited by Ahmadinejad.