Iran is to host some 30 leaders, including those of India, Egypt and Cuba, at an August 30-31 summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that officials are billing as proof the Islamic republic is not as isolated as the West would like.
“So far, more than 100 countries have said they are ready to participate, and around 30 nations will be represented by presidents, prime ministers or vice-presidents, which is a very good number,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the ISNA news agency. The Tehran summit, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “is the greatest political summit in Iran’s history.”
The NAM, born at the height of the Cold War, brings together nations that consider themselves independent of the world’s major power blocs. The organisation counts a total 119 countries plus the Palestinian territories. For Iran, the two-day meeting is an important opportunity to portray itself as part of the international scene despite concerted efforts by the United States and the European Union to isolate it diplomatically and economically over its disputed nuclear programme. Up to 7,000 participants — delegates and media — are expected for the summit, an Iranian vice president, Ali Saeedlou, was quoted as saying by ISNA.
Their spending will bring in $50 million for Iran, an official in the country’s tourism organisation, Manouchehr Jahanian, told the IRAN newspaper. Holding the event in Tehran is “a source of dignity,” another Iranian vice president, Ibrahim Azizi, said according to the Mehr news agency. “The world will see that the plots by the world arrogance (the United States) against our government are fruitless,” he said. Iran is going all out in its hosting duties.
A five-day public holiday in Tehran has been called for the summit and its lead-up to clear the city of its stifling traffic and pollution. Visa-free entry to Iran normally offered to nationals from Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Ecuador, Georgia, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Turkey, Syria and Venezuela has been temporarily suspended. Hospital staff have had vacations suspended. Parts of the capital have been beautified, with lamp posts and road markings freshly painted. Roads around the summit venue are to be blocked to all but official vehicles.
“The police are on full alert during the Non-Aligned Movement summit,” Iran’s deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying on the weekend. Security, he said, “is our duty and we are not joking about it.” AFP