- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Feb. 24 (UPI) — The 114-nation summit of the Non-Aligned Movement looks to be heading for a draw, striking a balance between pro and anti-America groupings with a draft declaration that will demand that Iraq disarm, but that the United States step back from war.

The final draft, after strong resistance led by U.S. allies Chile and Indonesia, struck out proposed references to "solidarity with Iraq" and to U.S. "aggression" and calls on Iraq to "actively comply" with U.N. resolutions. The draft, yet to be approved heads of government at the summit, also expresses "grave concern" at the prospect of an American-led war and to American "unilateralist" policies. The summit statement says that just like Iraq, the United States should accept U.N. decisions.

It was still unclear, as the formal sessions with heads of government began, whether Iraq, Iran and North Korea would be able to insert a condemnation of President George W. Bush's description of them as an "axis of evil."

But the summit has seen heated rhetoric against the United States, led by the summit host, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who warned that a U.S.-led attack would be seen as a "war against Muslims."

"The fact that North Korea's open admission that it has weapons of mass destruction has only met with mild admonishment by the West seems to prove that indeed it is a war against Muslims," he declared. "The attack against Iraq will simply anger more Muslims."

Iraq and other critics of the United States had hoped to use this summit of the world's developing nations as a platform to reinforce the anti-war message of the massed demonstrations in the streets of Europe a week ago. But despite the presence of long standing critics of the United States like Cuba, the site of the next NAM summit in 2006, the representatives of 114 nations from Asia, Africa and South America were unable to rally round a broad condemnation of the Bush administration, and thus revealed how little support Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein can command.

The NAM has never fully lived up to its founders' hopes that is should become an alternative world forum for the developing world, even though its members comprise more than half the world's population and a potential majority of votes in the U.N. General Assembly. Six NAM members hold seats on the 15-seat Security Council, which the Bush administration this week hopes will approve military action against Iraq.

The NAM found it easier to agree on traditional issues like a fairer deal for the developing world in global trade and condemning Israel. A declaration of strong support for the Palestinians has been prepared against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Nasser al-Qedwa, predicted Sunday that the NAM will issue a statement demanding war crimes trials for Israelis in occupied Palestinian territory.

The summit also bogged down over North Korea's nuclear ambitions. North Korean delegates initially refused all discussion of the issue, but then called for the NAM to issue a statement of support for Pyongyang against "American aggression" and to back North Korea's demand that the United States sign a non-aggression pact. But the NAM seemed more likely to ask North Korea to rethink its withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In return, NAM members will "note" North Korea's allegations of American bullying.

Although important figures like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi failed to attend, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri both took prominent roles. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf also attended, but officials said they had "no plans" to meet during the NAM.





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