TEHRAN, Iran — Iran opened a world gathering of self-described nonaligned nations Sunday with a slap at the U.N. Security Council and an appeal to rid the world of nuclear weapons, even as Tehran faces Western suspicions that it is seeking its own atomic bombs.
Iran seeks to use the weeklong gathering — capped by a two-day summit of Nonaligned Movement leaders — as a showcase of its global ties and efforts to challenge the influence of the West and its allies.
Among those expected to attend are U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, whose nation remains an important Iranian oil customer as Tehran battles Western sanctions over its nuclear program.
The 120-nation Nonaligned Movement, a holdover from the Cold War's pull between East and West, is seen by Iran and others as an alternative forum for current world discussions. Iran says it plans talks on a peace plan to end Syria's civil war, but no rebel factions will attend because of Tehran's close bonds with Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the gathering by noting commitment to a previous goal from the nonaligned group to remove the world's nuclear arsenals within 13 years.
"We believe that the timetable for ultimate removal of nuclear weapons by 2025 … will only be realized if we follow it up decisively," he told delegates.
Iran insists it does not seek nuclear weapons. The United States and allies suspect that Tehran's uranium enrichment could eventually lead to warhead-level material.