Deafening call for peace by Non-Aligned Movement
A deafening call for global peace was made by the 13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit held last week in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Speaker after speaker condemned threats of aggression and oppression as the Middle East stood on the brink of a US-led attack against Iraq. They also watched in horror at developments in Palestine. Sixty-three heads of state attended the Summit of the 114-member NAM. National leaders included Fidel Castro (Cuba), Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Mahathir Mohammed (Malaysia), Goh Chok Tong (Singapore) Tran Duc Luong (Vietnam), Megawati Sukarnoputri (Indonesia) and many more. The NAM was founded in 1961 to unite the many former colonial and third world countries. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, as outgoing chairman of NAM said, "Some had promised that the end of the Cold War just over a decade ago would lead to the birth of a new world order of freedom, justice, peace and prosperity for all, but what we have seen since then is a world torn apart by merciless conflicts that have devoured many human lives". He said member countries of our Movement, especially in this [Asian] region, were hit by an economic crisis that destroyed or undermined great advances that had been made to improve the lives of the people. "Millions elsewhere in the world, in Africa, had no choice but to sustain life by depending on international food aid, even as they had to contended with a burden of disease", he said. "As we meet here the terrible promise of war hangs over the peoples of Iraq and the world. When and if it will break out we do not know. How many human casualties we also do not know. "But what we know is that if war does impose itself on humanity, it will claim many lives. It will increase instability in the Middle East and the world. It will deliver a deadly blow to the poor of the world, who will have to bear the additional pain of growing impoverishment." Surely, Thabo Mbeki said, "We must together make the statement that we do not want war. But we must also make the statement that neither do we want weapons of mass destruction." Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad accused the United States and Western countries of adopting "double standards" in combatting terrorism and made a strong plea for outlawing war and establishing an order in which no single nation is allowed to assume the role of world policeman and decide unilateral action. Mahathir, who took over the chairmanship of the NAM that represents 55 percent of the world's population and almost two thirds of the seats at the UN, said that the biggest threat to NAM countries today was "the tendency of the powerful to wage war when faced with opposition, to spread their dominance". "It is no longer just a war against terrorism. It is in fact a war to dominate the world", he said, adding "powerful countries no longer respect borders, international laws or simple moral values following the September 11 terror attacks." "They are now talking of the use of military conquests to change governments and are even talking of using nuclear weapons." President Khatami of Iran said Tehran opposed the use of force to change any regime in any country. He was referring to the US intention to get rid of President Saddam Hussein. "The current frightening world atmosphere makes it imperative for the Non- Aligned Movement to opt for a more affirmative approach toward achieving a peaceful world", he said. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo said global security should be sought through nuclear disarmament, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction as well as balanced and progressive conventional disarmament. She also called on Saddam Hussein to urgently negotiate a win-win settlement that would "spare the heroic Iraqi people the agonies of a devastating war". Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said the threat of military action by a powerful country, let alone just to act on the basis of or simply to demonstrate its might or superiority, was clearly a mistake. "No matter how powerful the country is, that does not give it the right to act unilaterally against others." Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said that all actions in respect of Iraq by the United States and others should respect international law and resolutions of the Security Council. "In this crisis, we must not lose sight of the humanitarian aspect. The Iraqi people have suffered enough", he said. Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong called on the United Nations to push back by all means the war for the sake of world peace. "We also call for an end to power politics, embargo and sanctions against a number of countries, which have, for many years, caused tremendous hardships and sufferings for their people, particularly those imposed against Cuba", he said. "The international community must make every effort to encourage Iraq to comply fully with Security Council resolution 1441 and to co-operate pro- actively with the inspectors so this objective is achieved peacefully." The Vietnamese President said, "If ... the international community fails to agree on a common position, and action is taken without the authority of the Security Council, the legitimacy of, and support for, any action will be seriously impaired." A statement on Iraq adopted at the conclusion of the Summit welcomed and expressed support for all efforts to avert war against Iraq. It said they were fully cognizant of the concerns expressed by millions in their countries, as well as in other parts of the world, who rejected war and believed that war against Iraq would be a destabilising factor for the whole region. At the same time, they also called on Iraq, a member of the 116-strong Movement, to continue to actively comply with the United Nations Security Council resolution."We believe that this would be an important step opening the way to a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of all pending issues between Iraq and the United Nations that takes into account the concerns of all affected parties, including Iraq's neighbours." In their statement, the leaders noted that the current disarmament efforts in Iraq should also constitute a step toward the lifting of sanctions in accordance with Security Council Resolution 687. In a special statement, the Summit also demanded an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territories and sought full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions. NAM leaders strongly condemned the systematic human rights violations and reported war crimes committed by the Israeli forces against Palestinians. They emphasised that the main danger to the realisation of national rights of the Palestinians and the achievement of a peaceful solution to the problem was the settler colonalisation that had been carried out in the occupied territories. "This policy of settler colonialism must be immediately stopped and reversed", the NAM statement said.
* * *Taken from Xinhua News Agency reports of the NAM Summit meeting