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Iran agenda faces ‘realities’ at world gathering

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian officials have made no secret about their massive ambitions for this week’s nonaligned nations’ gathering, with a guest list including leaders such as Egypt’s president and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Tehran seeks to assert itself on a host of issues before the meetings close Friday: Syria’s civil war, sidestepping Western sanctions, promoting its nuclear narrative and seeking to ease long-standing Middle East friction with rivals in Cairo and the Gulf. Yet it is likely to face substantial pushback.

While the country’s leaders see the weeklong gathering of the 120-nation Nonaligned Movement as a major step toward validating Iran as a rising power, it also could highlight its limits and liabilities in the region and further afield.

“Iran sees itself as a cornerstone of nations trying to break free of what they call Western dominance,” said Bruno Tertrais, an Iranian affairs analyst at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “This is good for domestic politics, but Iran confronts some sharp realities outside its borders.”’

High among them these days is Tehran’s close bonds with Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria — even as it has been abandoned by nearly every other Mideast nation and the West.

Tehran’s unwavering support for Assad could, in fact, ultimately overshadow the landmark visit by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi later this week.

Still, Tehran is making every effort to portray the gathering as a pivotal moment in its global aspirations.

The view is not unfounded. In terms of membership, the bloc is second only to the U.N. General Assembly and includes emerging economic powerhouses such as India, while giants China and Brazil hold observer status in the group.

But Iran — which took over the bloc’s rotating presidency on Tuesday — seeks to reinvent what some see as a Cold War relic as a forum to limit the West’s reach. Its foreign minister opened the meetings Sunday with a call to dilute the power of the U.N. Security Council. Other expected talking points include proposals to replace the U.S. dollar and euro with local currencies in transactions between member states.

The West fears Iran’s uranium enrichment program could eventually produce atomic weapons. Iran insists it only seeks reactors for energy and medical applications. As part of the current meetings, Iran has proposed tours of nuclear sites for diplomats in an apparent effort to win over their support.

Iran has also put its first generation of enrichment centrifuges on display along with a domestically produced satellite and nano-technology devices — with promises to share expertise with fellow nonaligned states.

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