Non-Aligned Summit: Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has opened a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement by saying his country is not seeking nuclear weapons.
Speaking as leaders and delegates of 50 countries gathered in Tehran, he also accused the US of "bullying" the world.
The crisis in Syria is on the agenda for the two-day summit, as are human rights and nuclear disarmament.
Egypt's President Mohammed Mursi is attending – the first visit to Iran by an Egyptian leader since 1979.
The Non-Aligned Movement (Nam) was established in 1961 by countries that wanted to counterbalance the dominance of the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War.
It meets once every three years but its relevance on the international stage has declined significantly since the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.
The Tehran summit caps a week of meetings and involves delegates and leaders from 50 of the 120 member countries – a meeting of non-aligned foreign ministers on Tuesday was dominated by criticism of sanctions against Iran and decision-making at the UN.
The Islamic Republic of Iran faces repeated calls in the West for its isolation because of its nuclear activities.
But this summit gives Iran's government the perfect chance to fight back.
Iran is now informally updating the Movement's goal. In effect, it wants to get the Non-Aligned countries to Align themselves with Iran's own positions.
The government says that leaders will spend the next two days discussing nuclear disarmament, human rights and regional issues. It also says that it plans to discuss a proposal to end the fighting in Syria.
But the Movement's ability to change the course of world affairs – or to persuade the world's major powers to lift sanctions against Iran – is not immediately clear.
Ayatollah Khamenei told the delegates: "I insist that the Islamic Republic of Iran is never seeking nuclear weapons," calling them "a major and unforgivable sin".
But he said Iran would "never give up the right to peaceful nuclear energy".
The US and many of its allies suspect Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at developing a weapon, but Tehran insists it is strictly for civilian purposes.
He said sanctions imposed in Iran because of its nuclear programme "not only do not and will not paralyse us, but have made our steps steadier and elevated our resolve and boosted our confidence in our assessments".
The ayatollah also criticised the "illogical" structure of the United Nations Security Council, saying it enabled the US to impose its "bullying manner" on the world, Reuters reports.
"The UN Security Council has an irrational, unjust and utterly undemocratic structure, and this is an overt dictatorship," he said.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Syria's Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa are among the world leaders taking part.
Mr Mursi's attendance has attracted a lot of media attention in Iran: state TV broadcast live footage of him arriving at the airport in Tehran to be greeted by Iran's Vice President Hamid Baqaei.
His visit is the first by an Egyptian leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Iran cut ties with Hosni Mubarak's administration over its signing of a peace treaty with Israel.
The foreign relations unit of Mr Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood party told the BBC that Cairo's intentions were to normalise relations with Tehran, rather than significantly change them.
The Tehran gathering has upset the US – which has imposed tight sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear programme – after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced his attendance.
Mr Ban's acceptance of Tehran's invitation has been described by the US State Department as "strange".
He arrived on Wednesday and met with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But the South Korean has not shied from drawing attention to the Islamic Republic's human rights record.
In a press conference, seated next to the speaker of Iran's parliament and one of the country's most powerful politicians, he told reporters that he had "serious concerns" about human rights in Iran.
A spokesman for Mr Ban also said that he wanted to address the slow progress in multilateral talks related to Iran's disputed nuclear activity.
Reaching out to Syria
Iran is one of the few remaining allies of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has been accused by the US of training a militia in Syria to reinforce Mr Assad's forces.
According to his spokesman, Mr Ban urged Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr Ahmadinejad to "really reach out to the Syrian leadership and impress on them the really urgent need to stop the violence".
The website of Ayatollah Khamenei said the Supreme Leader told Mr Ban in their meeting that the solution to the crisis was halting the trafficking of weapons to Syrian rebel fighters.
He said it was "natural" for there to be weapons in the hands of the Syrian government, because it was conducting an official military like any other country.
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