Castro Says NAM ``More Necessary Than Ever''

DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) -. Sep 02, Cuban President Fidel Castro Wednesday welcomed South Africa's election to the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), saying the body was more important than ever.

Castro said in a brief speech to the 12th summit of heads of state of the movement that the world was undergoing changes which threatened the survival of the human race.

``On behalf of my region, I would say that there are hard times ahead. A deep and already inevitable global economic crisis of unpredictable consequences is threatening us,'' he said.

``We are absolutely convinced that the NAM...is more necessary than ever today,'' said Castro of the 113-member movement.

The NAM, founded under the guidance of Yugoslavian dictator Josip Tito in 1961, was conceived as a counter-balance to the Cold War dominance of the United States and Soviet Union.

Castro said he hoped the grouping, which has been criticized as a talkshop in the post-Cold War era, would be reinvigorated by South Africa's leadership over the next three years.

South African President Nelson Mandela was elected president of the movement earlier Wednesday.

``We are fully confident and certain that South Africa...will raise high the banners of unity and solidarity to defend the just causes of our Third World peoples at a time when something more than development is at stake: our very survival as a species,'' said Castro.