Nonaligned Movement Pities Moscow

By ANDREW SELSKY

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) -- The Nonaligned Movement, formed to ward off superpower domination, now views Russia with more concern than mistrust, and a top official even suggested Tuesday that the group help the ailing country.

About 50 heads of state, including South African President Nelson Mandela, Cuban President Fidel Castro and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, began arriving in the humid Indian Ocean city of Durban for the two-day Nonaligned Movement summit of heads of states, which begins Wednesday.

Dancers and drummers greeted the leaders as they flew into Durban's small airport. Castro, forgoing the business suit he has worn in recent years to international conferences in favor of his customary green military fatigues, saluted an honor guard as he moved slowly down a red carpet.

The talks will focus on how to redirect the movement's energies toward helping poor countries gain influence and wealth, on bilateral talks on the Congo war, nuclear proliferation in South Asia, and other issues.

But delegates are also worried about Russia, whose economic crisis is prompting panicked investors to flee emerging markets worldwide, sending stock markets plunging.

``It's clear the Russian crisis impacts everyone, including NAM. We are concerned,'' South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki told a news conference. ``We need to find ways where NAM can intervene.''

Still, their aims may be constrained by reality. Many of the Nonaligned Movement members are themselves poor, and there was much talk on the sidelines among delegates about their powerlessness, despite declared intentions to help others.

Mbeki, who as South Africa's anointed successor to President Nelson Mandela would take over the Nonaligned Movement's leadership next year, alluded to that problem, saying the group needs the United States to bring concerns of developing countries onto the agendas of rich nations and international lenders such as the International Monetary Fund.

This year, for the first time, Washington sent an official observer to this Nonaligned Movement summit, the 12th since the group was created in the 1950s.

``You can stay pure by saying, `No, I'm not going to talk''' with Washington, Mbeki said. ``But then you won't achieve anything.''

Some other Nonaligned Movement members like Sudan, which is seeking condemnation of Washington for its cruise missile attack on a Khartoum factory last month, would disagree.

But then, there are disagreements aplenty among the group's 113 members, who often have divergent interests

At its last summit in Cartagena, Colombia, the Nonaligned Movement called for poor countries to have a greater voice in the UN Security Council, for relief of overwhelming foreign debt and for fairer trade relationships with the West.

But little has been accomplished in the intervening three years, partly because of internal disputes.

Meanwhile, as the world leaders began arriving at Durban's airport Tuesday, rescue crews rushed to evacuate a commercial airliner after smoke and sparks began spewing from one of its engines. No injuries were reported, and no heads of state were aboard.