Iran urges nonaligned nations role in Syria
Tehran: Iran's supreme leader said on Friday that emerging nations have a greater right than the West or United Nations to help resolve Syria's escalating civil war.
The comments appeared to reflect a hope by Iran to lead a diplomatic push over the crisis in its close ally Syria through the Non-Aligned Movement, the grouping of 120 nations whose annual conference Tehran has hosted this week.
However, Iran has faced an uphill challenge in garnering support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Some in the organisation -- particularly Sunni Muslim majority nations -- are more sympathetic with the rebels, if not outright backing it.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met on Friday with Syria's Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi and Damascus' delegation to the conference.
"The Non-Aligned Movement definitely has more political right than the US, NATO or some European countries to intervene in the Syrian issue," Khamenei said. He did not elaborate on what kind of role the group should have.
Iran has hoped to use the NAM summit to counter Western efforts to isolate it over its nuclear programme and also to head off foreign intervention in the Syrian crisis.
The UN and Arab League have both led ultimately failed efforts to negotiate an end to Syria's violence, in which thousands have been killed since early 2011.
Turkey this week called for the UN to authorisation creation of a safe zone in Syria for tens of thousands fleeing their homes. Britain and France have left open the possibility of more aggressive action, including a military-enforced no-fly zone to protect a safe area -- though that still seems a remote possibility.
But the NAM, an organisation formed in the Cold War as an alternative to both the Soviet and US blocs, has little cohesiveness or international weight now to push a Syria initiative. And its members are divided over Syria.
On Thursday, Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Mursi, making the first visit to Iran by an Egyptian leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, said in Tehran that Assad's "oppressive" regime has lost its legitimacy and that the world must stand behind the Syrian rebels.
Syrian delegates to the conference walked out during Mursi's speech.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem yesterday complained of some nonaligned member states arming the rebels.
"Unfortunately, some regional countries, that are also members of the nonaligned movement, are providing weapons and military training as well as money to the armed groups to destroy Syria's infrastructure," he told Iranian state TV yesterday.