Non-Aligned summit ends with Congo peace in sight

By Brendan Boyle

DURBAN, South Africa, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ended a summit in South Africa on Thursday with a pledge to fight poverty and new plans for peace in Laurent Kabila's Congo.

``We commit ourselves to work tirelessly for the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment,'' South African President and NAM chairman Nelson Mandela said in a closing statement.

``The goal of peace in our countries and the world remains at the centre of our perspective for the further development of human civilisation,'' he said.

Leaders of the 113-nation movement said in their final communique it was their own responsibility to find a place in the new world economic order.

But they said wealthy nations had a responsibility to share their wealth and to facilitate a review of the relationship between the commodity-based economies of the developing world and the manufacturing economies of the developed world.

``Whilst globalisation holds out the promise of prosperity, it brings with it severe challenges for the developing countries,'' the summit said in a final communique.

``The promise of prosperity has not touched the vast majority of the world's population, especially in the least developed countries.

``In this lies the seed of a dangerous new process of uneven development,'' the NAM leaders said.

The 12th summit of the movement -- established 43 years ago as a counterpoint to the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union -- was overshadowed by the search for peace in Africa's third largest country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Congo President Laurent Kabila was an unexpected guest at the summit, arriving moments before it began on Wednesday and leaving ahead of a breakfast meeting on Thursday of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) to address the confict in his country.

Mandela and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe bridged their differences over the conflict in the Congo, opening the door to a settlement that could involve a regional peace-keeping force.

In a significant U-turn, Mandela, told a news conference after the SADC meeting that regional leaders now accepted the deployment of troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia in the Congo.

Mugabe told the NAM leaders in the eastcoast port of Durban, where the regional mini-summit took place, that it was time to stop fighting in the Congo and work together for peace.

South Africa and Zimbabwe have been at loggerheads over the Congo conflict, with Mandela demanding a diplomatic solution and Mugabe insisting regional leaders should help Kabila fight off a rebellion led by members of the Tutsi minority in the east of his country.

Their dispute has split the SADC, which Mandela also chairs, and has seen the two men caught up in rare public displays of difference.

Mandela said he had dropped his opposition to the military intervention when President Sam Nujoma of Namibia explained to him the initiative was to help Kabila fend off a foreign invasion.

Kabila has repeatedly accused Rwanda and Uganda of driving the rebellion and of arming the rebels who came to within 40 km of Kinshasa before being turned back.

``There is no difference whatsoever on this point now that explanations have been given. There was some confusion before, but once Sam Nujoma gave me this explanation...we unanimously supported that initiative and expressly acknowledged President Kabil as the legitimate head of that government,'' Mandela said.

He told Reuters later that he had not altered his objection in principle to military intervention, but that he accepted the reasons for the Congo initiative.

``We said that we accepted their reasons for going in, not that we approve of military efforts to resolve problems,'' he said.

Mugabe added his own concession, saying the foreign forces had secured Kabila's capital and administration and that it was time to meet and talk.

``We will advise President Kabila to put forward a political programme which will enable all shades of opinion to be accommodated,'' he said.

Mugabe told reporters at a news conference he would host a meeting at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on Sunday and Monday bringing the rebels, their backers, Kabila and his supporters together for the first time since the conflict started on August 2.

Senior African and United Nations sources told Reuters Mugabe's meeting probably would sanction a plan proposed on Thursday for a regional peace-keeping force including South Africa, Zambia and the forces already in the Congo to help Kabila.

South Africa has refused to deploy troops outside its borders since Mandela ousted the white minority government in 1994 to become the country's first black president.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who participated in the morning meeting, also shifted from his earlier insistence on the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from the Congo.

``Down the line, eventually, one would want to see the withdrawal of all foreign troops, but this obviously will have to be done in sequence and in phases and this, obviously, will have to be discussed,'' he said.