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Iran Tells Developing States To Fight World-Power Bias

President Ahmadinejad speaking at opening of the NAM conference

President Ahmadinejad speaking at opening of the NAM conference

TEHRAN -- Iran's president has called for developing nations to unite to fight what he said was bias shown by the UN Security Council and other world bodies that only serve the big powers' interests.

Iran wants to broaden its international support in a row over its nuclear plans with the West, which President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says manipulate the Security Council and other bodies to act against the Islamic republic.

The council has imposed three rounds of limited sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear work, which the West says is aimed at making nuclear bombs but Tehran insists is designed to meet electricity needs.

Ahmadinejad accused world powers of trying to deny others peaceful nuclear energy while they stockpiled atomic weapons.

"The major powers are on a descending course. The extent of their influence drops day by day. They are approaching the end of their era," Ahmadinejad told a Nonaligned Movement (NAM) meeting on July 29.

NAM, now with 118 members plus observers, was set up in 1961 to group many newly independent nations that wanted to avoid being caught up in the Cold War between Moscow and Washington. It has struggled to stay relevant since the Soviet Union fell.

"Any measure to change the world conditions and realize the joint interests of member states will not be possible except through effective efforts and collective cooperation of member states," Ahmadinejad told the ministerial meeting in Tehran.

He said the group together "can defend and repel aggression against any member subjected to aggression, and obstruct the violation by major powers of other countries."

Ahmadinejad called for an "arbitration council" that could resolve any disputes between NAM members as well as others, and a fund to back development in NAM, but did not give details.

Ahmadinejad said the Security Council would never issue a resolution against the United States, Iran's arch foe, as long as Washington, like four other big powers, had a permanent seat. The permanent council members have veto powers.

'Soft' Support

A draft NAM statement, obtained by Reuters, echoed previous calls backing Iran's right to develop, research, produce, and use peaceful atomic energy, while welcoming Tehran's continued cooperation with the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The final text has yet to be approved.

"We only pray that Iran, together with the International Atomic Energy Agency, together with the...big powers, sit down and resolve this matter amicably," Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.

A European diplomat, attending the meeting, said Iran's push for more explicit support for its case against world powers had met opposition from some NAM states, including regional rival Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with which Iran does not have full ties.

"It is going to be a soft declaration," the diplomat said.

A NAM diplomat, ahead of the meeting, had said the need for consensus would prevent NAM going beyond previous statements.

Six world powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China -- have offered Iran nuclear, trade, and other incentives if its suspends its uranium enrichment, a process that can have both civilian and military uses.

Iran has refused. It has also, so far, not given any sign it is ready to freeze expansion of its nuclear work in return for a halt to steps to impose more UN sanctions, a proposal aimed at getting preliminary talks going before formal talks start.

Western powers on July 19 gave Iran two weeks to respond. Russia, which like China has tended to take a softer line on Iran, has said it opposes artificial deadlines, as well as any foot dragging by Tehran.