Australia reaches out to nonaligned states at Iran summit

Australian envoys attending a nonaligned summit in Tehran on Thursday are to reach out to several participating countries, but will walk out of the event if Iranian leaders air their anti-Israeli rhetoric, an Australian foreign ministry spokesman said.

Australia's UN ambassador, Gary Quinlan, and a prime ministerial special envoy, Joanna Hewitt, will be attending the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit on Thursday and Friday as invited guests, the spokesman told AFP by telephone on Wednesday.

"If there is any anti-Israel rhetoric by Iranian officials, we will not attend, we will walk out," he said.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is to open the summit on Thursday, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have both called Israel a "cancerous tumour" that should vanish from the Middle East. Ahmadinejad in the past has also denied the Holocaust that occurred during World War II.

Iranian language in the summit itself was expected to be more muted, however, so as not to upset the 120 NAM member states taking part, which represent much of the developing world, or UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who will also be there as an observer.

Iran has portrayed the summit as a diplomatic coup against the United States and Israel, which have tried to isolate it internationally over its disputed nuclear programme.

Australia has joined Western pressure on Iran, and last week boosted its own sanctions against the Islamic republic by targeting Iran's energy and financial sectors.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr last week defended the envoys' attendance at the summit by telling Australia's Sky News television that "our foreign policy is not all about the US alliance, it's about more than that."

The Australian envoys in Tehran aim to communicate with several summit delegations, particularly those which do not host an Australian embassy, the foreign ministry spokesman said.

Their presence was also seen as helping Australia's bid to win a temporary UN Security Council seat to be decided by a UN vote in October, though the spokesman said that was not the main reason.

Australia was "working towards" winning that seat but was aware it had not lobbied for it as long as the two other contenders, European nations Finland and Luxembourg, the spokesman said.

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