Standing ovation for a veteran

Durban: Sept 2 (South News) In a speech which received a lengthy ovation, veteran Cuban President Fidel Castro on Wednesday lashed out at the "terrorism" of US missile strikes and said economic blockades "must be considered as war crimes ."

Addressing the 12th Non-Aligned Movement summit for the second time Wednesday, Castro speaking on behalf of Cuba, focused his attack on the United States. The Cuban leader, stated that if living amid the rivalries of two world powers during the Cold War was difficult and unpleasant, living under the tutelage of one superpower is unbearable

``It was hard enough to withstand the worldwide feud between two superpowers but to live under the total hegemony of only one is still worse,'' said Castro, the longest serving of the NAM's 114 leaders.

He said ``repulsive terrorism'' was ``used as a pretext by the power that has exercised the most reprehensible forms of terrorism in dozens of countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America -- including Cuba -- to begin launching missiles in any direction, regardless of the innocent people who might get killed.'' This was ``the world as a Western film in the old Hollywood style,'' he said.

In the interior of the conference hall  as time stood still, Castro called for an end the double standard on international questions and an "end the abuses against the long-suffering Palestinian people and offer them the possibility of peace"  and "return to the Arab peoples the territories taken away from them".

Projected on giant screens President Fidel Castro described the attempt to kill millions of persons, including women, the elderly and children, through hunger and disease as an terrorist act of extreme cruelty and genocide.

The Cuban leader blasted the superpower (Washington) for protesting whenever someone else wanted to produce nuclear weapons while it not only maintains them, but makes them steadily more lethal means of mass destruction. President Castro said this attitude only encourages nuclear proliferation and will never lead to a true and total nuclear disarmament.

The Cuban leader said the United Nations should be reformed and democratised.``The Security Council's dictatorship must cease,'' he said. ``The Council should be expanded, according to the present membership of the U.N. and the permanent membership should be twice, and if necessary three times, the present number.''

Fidel Castro also said that the International Monetary Fund should cease being a universal political destabilizer and financial police officer protecting Washington's interests. He accused industrial powers of only being interested in extracting oil, gold, diamonds and uranium while transnationals do not care about the curable diseases threatening the very existence of Africa's population.

In his address to the summit, during which he demanded a reduction of the intolerable debt for the poorest nations, He emphasized that much has been said about the external debt but that action is now needed on the part of the developed countries and the countries of the South.

 Finally, the Cuban President called for an end to hunger, poverty, the lack of schools, teachers, doctors and hospitals -- and an end to what he called the interminable plunder of the foreign debt. He said as more money is earmarked for foreign debt payments, greater are the obstacles for our development

 "Let there be an end to hunger and poverty in the world. Let there be an end to the lack of teachers and schools, of doctors and hospitals. Let there be an end to the interminable plunder of the external debt which, the more it is paid off, the more it increases, thus impeding our development."

Previously, Fidel had addressed the summit as a representative of Latin America, in a speech in which he emphasized that "bad times are approaching, a profound and already inevitable global economic crisis of some significance is threatening us all.

The Cuban leader asserted that a cohesive Non-Aligned Movement is more necessary now than ever, insisting that much more than economic development is at stake. Also under the gun, said President Castro, is our very survival as a species.

Fidel Castro spoke following the inaugural address of Colombian President Andres Pastrana -- out-going President of the Non-Aligned Movement -- and the speech delivered by the Movement's new president, Nelson Mandela.

He affirmed that the Movement is more necessary today than ever before given that humanity's survival as a species is at stake, expressing the conviction that it will " firmly continue the process of regrouping and invigorating the immense political force that we represent." At the same time, he paid tribute to President Nelson Mandela who has now assumed the presidency of the Movement, describing him as "a symbol of tenacity, of the capacity to struggle, of wisdom and of political talent."

Cuba, one of the 25 founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement when it was established in Yugoslavia in 1961, assumed the presidency of the Movement in 1979, when the 6th Summit took place in Havana.