Economy dominant as non-aligned summit nears
By Luke Baker

DURBAN, South Africa, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Leaders of some of the world's poorest countries began arriving in South Africa on Tuesday for the 12th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) with finance and economics topping their list of concerns.

At a news conference before the summit, which about 60 heads of state are expected to attend on Wednesday and Thursday, South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said economic globalisation was a central concern to less developed countries.

``The single most important thing (at the summit) would be to agree...how we approach the question of the restructuring of the world economy so that it has an impact on the needs of the developing countries,'' he told reporters.

``It is quite clear that if one thinks about further expansion in the world economy...it is necessary to bring into that world economy these millions of people who are poor.''

In particular, Mbeki said the NAM needed to use its leverage as the largest grouping in the United Nations to give itself greater bargaining power with the Group of Seven (G7) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

``There must be some way in which the Non-Aligned Movement interacts formally...with the G7 and G8, saying what is the agenda for the world economy,'' Mbeki said.

On Monday, ministers met to discuss a 65-page economic report prepared for the summit, which provided a road map for further economic integration of the world's 113 non-aligned countries.

The report advocated more private sector involvement in the expansion of developing economies and raised the possibility of a conference on monetary and financial issues to look into exchange rate policy and the impact of global capital movements.

The chair of the discussions, South African Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin, on Tuesday called them ``very productive'' and said they would form a strong platform for future NAM negotiations with powerful international groups.

``There's a negotiating round coming up in the WTO and that's what we're going for. We've put forward ideas for a positive agenda,'' he said.

In the light of turmoil in the financial markets, which has seen vast sums of capital withdrawn from emerging economies leaving currencies worth a fraction of their value and economies lifeless, Mbeki and Erwin urged closer analysis of capital movement.

``A matter of great concern is the existence of huge sums of short-term money that moves up and down very rapidly and produces all manner of crises,'' said Mbeki.

President Nelson Mandela was due in Durban on Tuesday. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Cuban President Fidel Castro had already arrived and U.N. Secretary-General Koffi Annan was expected on Tuesday evening.

Fleets of limousines lined up at Durban airport to drive the leaders to the city's beachfront hotels, where rooms designed for cost-conscious tourists have been twinned to make suites for free-spending leaders of the world's poorer nations.

A summit official said Mandela, 80, would hold a series of bilateral meetings with visiting leaders.

Economics may dominate the agenda but officials said the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be the focus of parallel meetings at the summit.

On Tuesday, Mbeki said the process of finding a solution to the conflict would go on and South Africa and Zimbabwe had no political differences on the subject.

``Both countries want a ceasefire immediately, both countries want the withdrawal of foreign troops, both countries want a settlement within the Congo that would be inclusive of all the people...and ensure the security of the countries in the region,'' he said.

Mandela and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have clashed over the Congolese copnflict.

Mandela backs a ceasefire called at an incomplete summit of Soputhern African development Community members in Pretoria this month. Mugabe, who boycotted the Pretoria summit, is leading a military operation to bolster President Laurent Kabila in his battle against Tutsi-led rebels