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NAM summit: Iran attempts to prove Western efforts to isolate it have failed

Though Iran pulled out all the stops this week as host of the Non-Aligned Movement summit, it was met with some heavy international criticism.

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Those words were an indirect reference to Iran's ill-fated June 2009 presidential election, which reinstalled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but prompted months of pro-democracy street protests that led to scores, if not hundreds, of deaths in the crackdown.

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'The cost of Iran's current trajectory'

Digging deeper, Ban said: "My purpose today is to highlight the cost of Iran's current trajectory, both at home and in the international arena. Any country at odds with the international community is one that denies itself much-needed investment and finds itself isolated from the thrust of common progress."

Iran is currently under four sets of UN Security Council sanctions, and a host of other more intrusive US and European measures that target economic activities from banking to shipping to oil sales, because of its nuclear program.

Iran insists its advanced nuclear efforts aim only to make energy, peacefully, but it has failed to convincingly deny to the IAEA allegations of weapons-related work.

Iran has also been targeted by a covert war that includes espionage, sophisticated computer viruses, and assassinations of at least four scientists linked to nuclear work. Iran blames the US and Israel for these actions.

"Iran is facing a very difficult time, as far as its struggle with the United States and the West," Sadegh Zibakalam of Tehran University told Al Jazeera English (AJE). "So the NAM in Tehran was terribly important for the Iranian leaders because they demonstrated to the United States... to enemies of Iran, that they have not succeeded in isolating Iran."

The US pressured NAM members not to go to Tehran, but many countries nevertheless "sent their highest delegates – their head of state, kings, prime ministers," noted Mr. Zibakalam. "So I think...Iran can justifiably say, 'I have scored some points against the United States and Israel.'"

'What Iran does not want to admit'

That view was countered by Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"What Iran does not want to admit [is] that many of these countries that participated in this summit, they are not non-aligned anymore, they have close relationships with the United States, countries like Saudi [Arabia]...like Bahrain, they do not have good relations with Iran," Mr. Khalaji told AJE.

"The fact that many countries participated in this summit doesn't mean that Iran can make up [for] its political isolation," said Khalaji. "Iran has to look for [a] real solution for its problem, instead of focusing on propaganda and public diplomacy."

Both were on display in Tehran during the two-day summit meeting.

"They put the cars of the murdered scientists in front of the venue, then they had a special press briefing from the families of the murdered scientists," says the European diplomat. "They were feeding the media all these stories, 'We are the victims here, and we are getting killed,' which done with a slightly lighter touch may have worked. But they've just overdone it."

"Instead, coming out of Iran were stories that this was not a successful conference for the Iranians, because the two issues they didn't want to talk about were talked about from the very beginning, right at the top: the nuclear dossier and Syria."

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