HAVANA, Sept 17: Representatives of 118 Non-aligned Movement nations condemned Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and supported a peaceful resolution to the US-Iran nuclear dispute in the final declaration on Saturday of a summit that brought together some of the world’s staunchest American foes.
The 92-page declaration also broadly condemned terrorism — with exceptions for movements for self-determination and battles against foreign occupiers.
And while declaring democracy to be a universal value, the movement said no one country or region should define it for the whole world. The leaders mentioned Venezuela and Cuba in particular as they asserted the right of all countries to determine their own form of government.
The statements, many of which contain veiled criticisms of the US, were approved by unanimous consent after another round of speeches on Saturday night by leaders of the Nonaligned Movement.
“No one in the Nonaligned Movement thinks that the United States is responsible for all the problems, but many think that it is for some,” Cuba’s Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said.
An ailing Fidel Castro was named president of the movement, but he stayed home in his pajamas on doctors’ orders while Acting Cuban President Raul Castro presided over the meeting of two-thirds of the world’s nations.
Raul joined numerous US foes who said a bellicose America had made the world more dangerous.
“The United States spends one billion dollars a year in weapons and soldiers,” he said. “To think that a social and economic order that has proven unsustainable could be maintained by force is simply an absurd idea.”
Many demanded that the United Nations take action against the veto power of the five permanent Security Council members. Suggestions in the final declaration include expanding the council’s membership or allowing council vetoes to be overruled by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.
“The US is turning the security council into a base for imposing its politics,” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complained. “Why should people live under the nuclear threat of the US?”
Some leaders tried to resolve disputes with their neighbours: Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to resume peace talks, and Bolivian President Evo Morales tried to reassure Brazilians angered by tough energy negotiations.
Others held onto hardline positions: North Korea defended its nuclear weapons programme, Sudan’s leader rejected a UN peacekeeping mission for Darfur and Ahmadinejad insisted on Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy. The document supports Iran’s position while encouraging Iran to continue cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
North Korea parliament leader Kim Yong Nam claimed his nation “would not need even a single nuclear weapon if there no longer existed a US threat,” and said US financial sanctions have “driven the situation into an unpredictable phase.”
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed that the security council must be more responsive to less powerful countries.
“The Security Council must reform — for the sake of the developing world, and for the sake of the United Nations itself,” Annan told the Nonaligned leaders. “The perception of a narrow power-base risks leading to an erosion of the UN’s authority and legitimacy — even, some would argue, its neutrality and independence. I have in the past described this as a democracy deficit.”
The Nonaligned Movement was formed in 1961 to establish a neutral third path in a world divided by the United States and the Soviet Union. Cuba last hosted the group in Havana 27 years ago.
The world has changed dramatically since then, but Annan said its collective mission is more relevant than ever: promoting democracy, protecting human rights and developing civil societies.
Many leaders said their group will be stronger with Fidel Castro as the movement’s president, but it’s unclear whether the 80-year-old Castro will recover enough from intestinal surgery to guide the group for the next three years until Egypt takes over.
The ailing rebel icon met in his home with a handful of leaders including Annan and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. And while Raul provided the world with its first glimpse of how he operates as a statesman — Chavez repeatedly asserted himself as the natural heir to Castro, who remains a hero to leftists around the world.
“To be radical is not to be insane, it’s to go to our roots. Let’s go to our roots, let’s be truly radical,” Chavez declared, concluding one speech with a favorite Castro rallying cry: “Patria o Muerte!” _ “Fatherland or Death!”—AP