Economic crisis dominates developing world summit

SHARM EL-SHEIKH: More than 50 heads of state from the developing world were gathering in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the global economic meltdown on their nations.

Cuban President Raul Castro called for a new world financial order, saying the crisis had hit developing nations hardest in a speech at the opening session of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit.

"Every country in the world must seek just solutions to the global economic crisis," Castro told the 118-member body at the gathering at this Red Sea resort.

"We call for a new monetary and economic world order... we must restructure the world financial system to take into consideration the needs of developing countries."

But the developing world's military ambitions looked set to steal the limelight, with nuclear-armed South Asian foes India and Pakistan to discuss relaunching stalled peace talks on Thursday.

The fraught relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad deteriorated after the deadly attack on the Indian commercial capital of Mumbai last November which left 166 people dead.

India blamed the attacks on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Pakistan has acknowledged they were partially planned on its soil.

Indian foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon met his Pakistani counterpart Salim Bashir on Tuesday ahead of talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Galani.

Singh has voiced hope that Pakistan will promise action against those behind the attacks when he meets Gilani for only the second high-level contact between the two sides since the Mumbai bombings.

The attacks left in tatters a fragile peace process launched in 2004 to resolve all outstanding issues of conflict, including a territorial dispute over the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

India, along with host Egypt, is one of the founding members of the NAM, the largest grouping of countries outside of the United Nations, which seeks to give a voice to the developing world.

The summit will "provide for a chance for discussions over the international economic crisis, which first started in the industrialised countries, and greatly impacted the developing countries, especially Africa," Zimbabwe Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said on Tuesday.

He said industrialised states "should not be given free rein to manage such a crisis".

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Monday the summit aimed for "a new international order... in which nations (are not judged) by their size or military and economic capabilities."

Founded in 1955, NAM's 118 member states represent around 56 percent of the global population. NAM states consider themselves not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.

Set up during the Cold War, the movement sought to distance itself from both the Western and Soviet blocs, but today its raison d'etre is questioned after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing shift in power politics.