Kabila in S.Africa as NAM leaders meet

By Paul Richardson

DURBAN, South Africa, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Congo President Laurent Kabila joined leaders of the world's poorest countries in Durban on Wednesday for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement likely to be dominated by the search for peace in his country.

Kabila's unexpected arrival completed the line-up for a parallel meeting of all the governments involved in the month-long rebellion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The presidents of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, who have all deployed troops and arms to defend Kabila's 15-month-old administration, and the presidents of Rwanda and Uganda, whom Kabila accuses of arming his opponents, all arrived on Tuesday.

South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said on Tuesday that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan planned to convene a summit of leaders from the Great Lakes region around the Congo.

``I am quite certain that there will be a ceasefire, that there will be a withdrawal of foreign troops and agreement will be entered into with regard to regional security arrangements around central Africa,'' Mbeki said on Tuesday.

At that point, however, summit officials were still saying that Kabila, who has repudiated South African President Nelson Mandela's efforts to convene a full meeting of leaders involved in the Congo conflict, would not be attending the gathering of th 113 NAM nations.

On Wednesday, Mandela, 80, and his new wife, Graca Machel, individually greeted the heads of every delegation, including Cuba's President Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat of Palestine.

While leaders gathered at the conference centre, police carried out a controlled explosion on a stolen pickup truck nearby. The incident, which was also close to the U.S. consulate, was the latest in a series of bomb alerts and controlled blasts destroying items that proved to be harmless.

Nuclear sabre-rattling between India and Pakistan, Libya's battle with the United States over the trial of its suspects in the Lockerbie airline bombing, and Third World rage at Washington's missile strikes against alleged ``terrorist'' bases in Sudan and Afghanistan were among other issues on the agenda for the two-day meeting.

``We are looking forward to a gathering which is historic from the point of view of our country,'' Mandela told reporters on Tuesday.

He said the search for peace in Africa and beyond would be paramount as the leaders assembled on Wednesday.

Around 60 heads of state or government arrived in the eastern port city on Tuesday for the 65 million rand ($10 million) event marking the start of South Africa's three-year leadership of the NAM.

Mbeki, who is set to succeed Mandela when he retires next year, said transformation of the economic relationship between the NAM's poor nations and the economic powers of the West would also be a major issue at the summit.

``I think the single most important thing would be to agree on a perspective about how we approach the question of the restructuring of the world economy so that it has an impact on the development needs of the developing countries,'' he told a news conference.

``This whole critical matter of ending poverty, of ending underdevelopment, of ensuring sustained growth in the context of what is happening to the world economy today is a very, very important matter.''

The summit takes place amidst unprecedented global economic turmoil with uncertainty about Russia's future sending stock markets around the world into a nosedive.

``It is clear that the Russian crisis is impacting on everybody, including the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement,'' Mbeki said.