Summit opens, leaders express concern over threat of war

Kuala Lumpur, (TWN/ Chee Yoke Heong) - The Prime Minister of Malaysia Monday called on members of the NAM to unite in forging a vision to oppose wars in all forms and manner, and attributed the acts of terrorism, poverty and economic problems of developing countries to the ambition of developed countries to dominating the world and which result in injustice and oppression of people worldwide.

In a speech at the opening of the 13th session of the Heads of States/Governments of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Mahathir said: “War solves nothing. War is primitive. Today’s war is more primitive than stone-age wars.  The targets are not the fighters, the combatants. The target is ordinary civilians, the women, children, and old people.” He called on NAM members to ‘close ranks and act together’ in partnership with its allies in the North - those who are also against wars and killings regardless of the reasons and nuclear weapons - and oppose war in a united manner.

Acts of terrorism worldwide waged by developing countries, Mahathir said, is a reaction against terrorism that was perpetrated by the rich countries, such as in the case of the people of Palestine who are struggling against Israel to regain their land, and are condemned for their terrorist acts - though the same is also perpetrated by the other side.

The Malaysian Prime Minister noted that this feeling of anger against developing countries by the rich and the powerful precipitated since September 11, and which triggered the adoption of extreme measures to ensure security for their own people and countries, has led to both sides bent on killing each other and spending trillions of dollars on arms and weapons.

Despite the money spent, the new technologies and strategies adopted and the deployment of forces and inspectors worldwide, terrorist attacks still takes place, he noted.

The new NAM head proposed that war must be outlawed and all weapons of mass destruction destroyed and the United Nations system engaged in resolving conflicts in a multilateralist manner.

“War must therefore be made illegal. The enforcement of this must be by multilateral forces under the control of the United Nations. No single nation should be allowed to police the world, least of all to decide what action to take, and when,” Mahathir said, in a clear reference to the threat of US attacks on Iraq.

The September 11 incident, he said, has brought about a change in the world. The North has removed all restraints and no longer respects borders or international law, and there is talk of wars and the use of military conquests to change government. “It is no longer just a war against terrorism. It is in fact a war to dominate the world ,” Mahathir said.

As a measure to minimize the incidence of war, he proposed that the same terms imposed on Japan, when it was defeated in the Second War, namely that it spend only one percent of its GDP on its armed forces be applied to all countries.

This suggestion of Mahathir received a wide applause from the audience of world leaders attending the summit.

But oppression and injustice is not just confined to waging war, but also in the realm of economics, the Malaysian Prime Minister continued.

With the end of the Cold War, the face of capitalism rages on - such as by the currency attacks waged on the economies of many countries which caused the loss of millions of jobs, bankrupted banks and businesses, the collapse of governments leading to anarchy while dozens of individuals made billions in the process.

In addition, the rich countries have also cut back on their aid to developing countries and had stifled many debt laden poor countries through the international agencies that they control.

The result of this confrontation between the haves and have nots, the developed and the developing, is a world that is practically ungovernable, leading to the constant tensions that we are seeing now, he said.

In this sense, he concluded, NAM is not irrelevant because the problems and crisis that the world is facing are also traditional concerns of the movement and the principles of peace and the vision of a new world order that is equitable and just still applies in today’s context.

In his speech, the President of South Africa and outgoing chairman of NAM, Thabo Mbeki also lamented the presence of war and the threat of wars and joined the chorus of voices in calling for a world free of war and free from weapons of mass destruction.

“From the genocide in Rwanda in Africa, through the deadly conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Chechnya in Russia and Afghanistan, the death and destruction in Timor Leste, and the apparently unstoppable and costly conflict between Palestine and Israel, it has seemed that war is destined to define the human condition, permanently,” said Mbeki.

He said NAM should demand that Iraq, a member of the grouping, cooperate fully with the UN Security Council and the weapons inspectors to satisfy the world that it has no weapons of mass destruction and that all countries, ‘including those who are comparably more powerful’, should respect the findings of the weapons inspectors and the decisions of the Security Council ‘fully and without reservation.’

The Chairman of the Group of 77 and the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI echoed this view and urged that war in Iraq should be averted through adequate implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions.

In a candid assessment he attributed the movement’s lack of success in defending its just causes as due to the lack the authority and political will needed to press their case. “Without blaming each other, we must admit that we are all somewhat responsible for this lack of efficiency,” he said.

He called on NAM countries to enforce decisions made at the multilateral level with a view to controlling the globalization process in order to safeguard the interest of developing countries.

With regards the Monterrey Consensus (at the UN Conference on Financing for Development), he said there is a need to ensure that the economic and financial policies of the relevant multilateral institutions are consistent with each other.

It is also important to design an international financial architecture capable of protecting the international financial system, particularly financial markets in developing countries against the devastating effects of sudden crisis and unbridled speculation, he added.

On the Doha process, he said negotiations should lead to the establishment of “a fair and balanced international system which has the potential to give tangible expression to the special and differential treatment principles, and also to open markets of the North, on a preferential basis, to goods and services which are important to developing countries in terms of export.”

The Moroccan King noted that the South was facing severe problems such as the alarming incidence of poverty and an inability to contain the spread of epidemics and diseases, the irreversible damage caused to the climate, to the environment and to biodiversity, and also the dwindling water resources.

This called for the prompt implementation of recommendations made at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Energy should also be devoted to the African continent which is suffering from the exacerbation of devastating regional strife, he said, adding that the movement should also use its weight and influence to deal with the conflict in the Middle East with regards to Israel’s occupation of Arab territories and its persistent aggression against the Palestinians.

The summit of Head of State and Government of the NAM ends on Tuesday.

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