Yugoslavia casts shadow over non-aligned summit

JAKARTA - A summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement opened yesterday with calls for a new focus on economics rather than politics, but issues such as Yugoslavia and United States actions in Iraq remained contentious.

Malaysia and Iran, resisting earlier moves to shelve the Yugoslav issue, lashed out at Serbian attacks on Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Iran's President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani expressed reservations over the move to postpone a decision on Yugoslavia's membership of the movement until the United Nations meets later this month.

Officials of the 108-member movement had tried earlier to stop Yugoslavia overshadowing other issues at the six-day summit. Indonesia and others want to push the movement away from the confrontation of the past and give it new relevance in the Cold War aftermath by focusing on development and reducing the Third World's dollars 1.3 trillion (pounds 650bn) debt. Iran and several other Muslim nations want the rump state of Yugoslavia kicked out, saying it no longer represents the country which helped to found the movement. Malaysia's Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said: 'The Western attitude towards the daily killings of the Bosnians stands in stark contrast to the response of the alleged killings of the Kurds in Iraq.'

The movement needed to redefine itself in a changing global environment or face bullying by rich and powerful nations in what amounted to 'a revival of the old Western colonialism', Dr Mahathir said in a thinly veiled attack on the United States. Other leaders, including Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, also urged that the movement find ways to prevent conflicts among member states, such as the dispute between his country and India over Kashmir.

Indonesia's President Suharto, opening the summit, had told members earlier that they must rely on their own efforts and not just the West to achieve prosperity. 'If a country desires development for its people it should strive to bring its own house in order,' he said. 'A nation must not depend on others for its own development.'

The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in an apparent reference to President George Bush's call for a new world order, said there could be 'no sustainable world order without the eradication of poverty.' Development, he said, was inseparable from peace and democracy. The non-aligned countries had focused too late on economic problems and their past cries for a 'new world economic order' had fallen victim to the ideological rows of the Cold War.