TEHRAN - Iranian leaders began an Islamic summit yesterday by putting sharply opposite views of the world on public display. The Conservative supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Kharnenei, launched a blistering attack on the West as materialistic, money- seeking, gluttonous and carnal. Minutes later, moderate-minded President Mohammad Khatami said Islamic civil society and its Westem counterpart were 'not necessarily in conflict and contradiction in all their manifestations and consequences. "This is why we should never be oblivious to judicious acquisition of the positive accomplishments of the Western civil society," Mr Khatami said. The speeches by the two Shi'ite Muslim clergymen at the start of the triennial summit the 55- member Organisation of the Islamic Conference pointed up the fierce debate going on in Iran on its destiny. Their audience included monarchs and crown Princes, Presidents and Prime Ministers from countries which long feared the export of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Among them were close allies of the West which boycotted a recent US-backed Middle East conference attended by Israel. Mr Khamenei aimed his tirade at the West in general, and the United States and Israel in particular, accusing them of a cultural and military invasion of the Islamic world. In contrast, Mr Khatami said sophisticated understanding of other nations entailed dialogue with them. "Living in peace and security can be realised only when one fully understands not only the culture and thinking but also the concerns as well as the ways and manners of others," he said.
Despite the efforts of American politicians to impose their WilI on others, a multi-polar world order was emerging. "In our view, a new order based on pluralism is taking shape in the world that, God willing, will not be the monopoly of any single power." The Iranian President, elected in May on a platform of reform and respect for the rule of law, urged Muslim nations to "strengthen confidence, reduce security concerns and ... render ineffective the wrong inculcations by the enemies of Islam." He said cultivating confidence was the first and most appropriate strategic approach to ensuring security. -The three-day summit of Muslim statesmen from Africa, Asia and the Middle East is due to end on Thursday with a declaration drafted by Iran. REUTERS