Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Representatives of the world's developing nations are gathering in Malaysia for a summit that is expected to attack U.S. policies in the Middle East and Asia. The Iraq crisis is expected to dominate the meeting.
The heads of state segment of the Non-Aligned Movement's 13th summit begins Monday, but already officials and ministers of the host and visiting countries have been taking shots at the "hegemonic" superpower.
"It would seem that the fight against terrorism has brought out the worst racist impulses in these countries," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told a preparatory session of senior officials Thursday, referring to the U.S. and its allies.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia would push not only for opposition to a war against Iraq, but also for a rejection of the concept of pre-emptive military strikes.
Sudan's ambassador said ahead of the meeting that Khartoum wanted the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to take a stronger stand against U.S. attempts to dominate the world.
The official Bernama news agency meanwhile quotes NAM diplomats as saying the summit is expected to urge the U.S. to "stop its threats" against North Korea, which is a member of the NAM, together with the other six State Department-designated "terror-sponsors."
It was not clear whether North Korea would also be urged to end its recently-revived nuclear program, although reports say the issue is the subject of heated debate in Kuala Lumpur.
But it will be the situation in the Middle East - both the Iraq weapons crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - that will likely dominate the gathering, and separate statements on both issues are expected to be produced.
Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, told an anti-war gathering early this week the summit would deliver a statement reflecting the NAM's strong and unanimous opposition to war on Iraq.
Both Iraq and "Palestine" are members of the grouping, which also includes most Arab and Islamic states.
Saddam Hussein's regime, which is facing a growing possibility of war over its weapons of mass destruction programs, will be represented in Kuala Lumpur by Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan.
Yasser Arafat, a popular figure at previous NAM summits, was to have attended, but Palestinian Authority officials said he could not do so, for fear Israel would prevent his return to the PA self-rule areas.
The NAM was formed during the Cold War as a grouping of developing nations - 25 at the start - ostensibly neutral in the confrontation between the West and Communism. Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Egypt and India were among its strongest promoters.
With the Cold War over, it has struggled to find a role for itself, despite now having 114 members, constituting a majority of U.N. member states. The 13th summit's theme is "Continuing the Revitalization of the NAM."
Syed and other speakers have argued for a body that serves as a custodian of "weak" and "powerless" nations in a unipolar world.
But with its members including nuclear-capable India and Pakistan and the oil-rich Gulf states, the NAM could be far more influential than it has been.
Unity has always eluded it, however, and leading figures like Mahathir have found themselves defending the movement from labels like "obsolete" and "irrelevant."
Malaysia has suggested that the Iraqi crisis and the war on terrorism may offer the movement the new lease of life it needs.
Far from being obsolete in the contemporary world order, Mahathir told a recent NAM business forum, the movement had a pivotal role in promoting humanity and global order.
Syed in his speech Thursday called for the NAM to present a united and cohesive front to the international community.
The view echoed a statement of his that until recently featured prominently on the Kuala Lumpur summit's website: "Now the new 'religion' of the world is capitalism and hyperpower. So, there is a need for countries in NAM to rethink as a grouping and consolidate our position in order to have a meaningful struggle."
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