AP 08/09 01:01 EDT V0845 AUGUST 9, 1994 The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican is trying to line up support from Catholic and Islamic countries -- including Iran -- to block an upcoming U.N. population conference from endorsing abortion and implying approval of homosexuality.

"The Holy See is fully conscious that the future of humanity is up for discussion," papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro said Monday in the Vatican's first briefing on its strategy in advance of the Sept. 5 meeting.

For months, Pope John Paul II has been hammering out warnings that the gathering in Cairo, Egypt, could end up endorsing abortion as a basic human right. Such a result, the pope said Sunday in some of his strongest words yet, would mark a "great failure" for humanity.

The Vatican is sending 16 delegates to the conference -- a large number that underscores its importance to the pope.

Navarro said the Vatican was contacting other nations to try to line up support, among those Islamic fundamentalist Iran. The Vatican has been counting on a coalition of Islamic and Roman Catholic countries to rally to its side at Cairo.

Navarro also attacked the conference's preparatory document, singled out the Clinton administration among opponents on abortion policy, and raised new fears the meeting could implicitly approve of homosexual sex.

Navarro challenged assertions by the top U.N. official for population, Nafis Sadik, in an Italian newspaper interview last week that the conference won't propose making abortion available on demand.

Navarro contended the document's "only criterion" for allowing abortion is the woman's choice. "One cannot accept that the rights of the unborn are completely ignored," he said.

Navarro questioned what he said was President Clinton's failure to agree to a statement not to promote abortion as a method of family planning.

During an audience with the pope at the Vatican in June, Clinton insisted he would not promote abortion as birth control, but made it clear he would support its availability.

Navarro also called the conference statement's references to sexual and reproductive health "tremendously ambiguous."

"The concept of 'sexual health' could, for example, be applied to a series of sexual activity ... particularly homosexual relations," Navarro said. The Vatican doesn't condemn homosexuality in itself, but condemns homosexual activity.