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Iran's Ahmadinejad: Capitalism is dead

At an Islamic economic summit in Turkey, Iran's President Ahmadinejad called for a new world order – a bid, perhaps, to deflect attention from protests at home and nuclear talks abroad.

By Staff writer / November 10, 2009

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran gestures during a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday.

Ibrahim Usta/AP

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Istanbul, Turkey

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to bolster the Islamic Republic's regional standing at an economic summit for Muslim leaders in Turkey on Monday, by declaring that a "new era is starting" after the "definite defeat" of capitalism.

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Analysts say that Iran has had a legitimacy deficit since a disputed presidential election and weeks of violent street battles in June, and is now trying recover lost diplomatic ground.

"They've had a real crisis, of both confidence and appearance in regional fora," says Anoush Ehteshami, a professor of international relations at the University of Durham in England. "And I think Turkey provides a very neat way forward for them, given that in many Arab circles, Ahmadinejad is not very welcome."

Ahmadinejad, one of the few heads of state to attend the committee meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference here, swept into Istanbul with his entourage to repay the recent visit to Iran of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke of the Iranian president as his "friend."

Iran is under pressure from the West to agree to a UN-brokered nuclear swap deal for enriched uranium, though Tehran has sent mixed signals about whether it will accept. But more important for Ahmadinejad in Turkey was portraying Iran as a regional leader determined to create a new world order and dethrone Western powers.

"We have to draw up programs based on Islamic economic thinkers. That way we can guide people to happiness, security, justice and honesty," Ahmadinejad said. "Change is a must."

Fending off 'bunker mentality'

Professor Ehteshami sees the Iranian president's visit and broader effort to reestablish legitimacy as a necessary move to counter a persistent opposition at home. Five months after Iran's election, sporadic protests have shown that a fierce government crackdown has not succeeded.

"I think they have to do this. What they want is not to give into bunker mentality. And be seen to be doing stuff out there," says Ehteshami. "Ahmadinejad's got so many problems at home, even if he restores legitimacy [in his government], it's hard to see if he can offer anything else.

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