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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.

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"Because at every ... national event you can think of – the question of legitimacy is going to be raised by demonstrators," adds Ehteshami. "And the rest of the world is not going to be allowed to forget the domestic troubles."

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Mixed messages from Iran

Similar questions have been raised inside and outside Iran about Ahmadinejad's policies. Western officials are uncertain where the government stands on the nuclear offer to exchange the bulk of Iran's low-enriched uranium for a consignment of specialized, higher-grade nuclear fuel for a small reactor that produces medical isotopes.

First the government agreed, during a meeting with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Then Iranian officials said the deal needed to be changed. And over the weekend a key hard-line member of parliament said any deal was dead. That was when the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, said talks could resume.

Likewise, the government has appeared to support renewed ties with America – from a "position of strength," as Ahmadinejad says – while at the same time continuing the fierce anti-American rhetoric that has helped define Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

Even the defeated presidential candidate and key opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who has called for a more moderate foreign policy, has complained of inconsistent messages.

The government "has been constantly trying to change its policies recently, by sending congratulation messages, sending letters even if the other side doesn't reply, and expressing readiness for dialogue," Mr. Karroubi said on his website Sunday.

He criticized Ahmadinejad for meeting so many American academics and journalists during his visit to New York in September, as the president has done for several years.

"If one-tenth of such a meeting happened at the time of all past government, Islamists would have come onto the streets ... to protest the government," Karroubi said, according to a Reuters translation. "National interests should be observed. The national interest is not a matter that different governments can change."