Colombia's Pastrana hands NAM leadership to S.Africa

 

DURBAN, South Africa, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Colombian President Andres Pastrana handed over the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to South Africa on Wednesday, saying the body was still relevant to fighting poverty and inequality in the world.

``The Cold War has ended but poverty, disparity and injustice, which our countries suffer, has not,'' Pastrana said as he handed the reins of the 113-member movement to President Nelson Mandela in a ceremony to open the meeting of the organisation's heads of state.

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.

Pastrana said all member nations should continue to dedicate themselves to disarmament, reform of the United Nations and closing the gap between the richer nations of the northern hemisphere and the poorer ones of the south.

But he added that member states also had to pledge themselves to fight newer scourges such as terrorism, the war on drugs and child labour, and should commit themselves to the rights of women and protection of the environment.

``We should not be content with making declarations,'' he said.

``The strengthening of democracy, the struggle against corruption and the need for south-south cooperation, all of this must be part of a new approach to co-operation based on dialogue, consensus and friendly discussion of problems.''

Pastrana, who was elected earlier this year and took office in August, also took the opportunity to encourage Colombians to work towards peace in the country. For the past three decades, Marxist guerrilla organisations have been waging an escalating conflict against the government.

``The road will be complex and hard, but it is a road all sectors and peoples of Colombia have chosen to take.

``I will work tirelessly for peace, a peace that all Colombians dream of.''

As Colombia's three-year chairmanship of the NAM ended, Pastrana said the country had accomplished everything it set out to do, and added he believed South Africa would do the same.

``We are convinced that South Africa will lead us forward wisely and surely as the new millennium approaches, and that the Non-Aligned Movement will consolidate its position as the most important grouping in the developing world.''

Around 60 heads of state have gathered for the summit, which finishes on Thursday. Other ministers have been meeting in Durban since the weekend