In Egypt, Non-Aligned nations focus on meltdown

Cuba’s president on Wednesday called for an international financial system that better takes into account developing countries interests, as the global recession captured the spotlight at a summit of non-aligned nations.

Raul Castro’s remarks at the opening session of the two-day Non-Aligned Movement’s meeting in this Red Sea resort were echoed by other leaders and build on earlier discussions among officials from the 118-nation grouping of mostly of African, Asian and Latin American nations.

“We demand the establishment of a new international financial and economic structure that relies on the participation of all countries,” Castro said, ahead of handing over the movement’s presidency to Egypt.

“There must be a new framework that doesn’t depend solely on the economic stability and the political decision of only one country,” the Cuban leader said, apparently referring to the United States.

The new system must give developing countries “preferential treatment,” he said without elaborating.

As the global meltdown roiled world markets, erasing trillions in dollars in individual, corporate and government wealth, calls have mounted for greater market regulation and a shift from the use of the dollar as the main foreign reserve currency. Developing nations have argued that their growth and stability is being undercut by a crisis in which they had no part in creating.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon touched on the issue, saying that “the economic crisis has revealed the need to improve the international financial architecture, so we may see the developing world and emerging powers gain more of a say in that realm.”

The call by Castro, whose country has been under U.S. sanctions for decades, followed similar demands by the movement’s foreign ministers and senior officials who stressed after four days of meetings here that joint action was needed to ward off the global meltdown’s impact.

The summit’s draft declaration also calls for the group to coordinate with China ? attending the summit as an observer ? to have their voices heard at international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The movement ? born in the 1950s ago as a group of nations allied neither with the U.S. nor the Soviet Union ? has lost much of its relevance with the end of the Cold War. Over the past two decades, it has become a forum in which developing nations meet to complain.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in his address, recognized the “challenge” facing the movement’s founding principles, saying the group must work closely with developed nations to address the world’s biggest problems, such as terrorism and financial instability.

But some of the group’s members ? such as India and Saudi Arabia ? have gained considerable economic clout, and that influence has not been lost on the West.

As the movement’s members met in Egypt for their 15th gathering, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was in the United Arab Emirates on the second leg of a Mideast visit during which he stressed on the need for joint effort to rebuild a more stable global economic foundation.

Geithner’s trip, which began in OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia, was a clear reflection of the growing financial strength of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. As a whole, that bloc is the U.S.’s second biggest creditor after China.

The prime ministers of nuclear powers Pakistan and India, meanwhile, were expected to meet on the summit’s sidelines. The two met in Russia last month for the first time since the Mumbai terror attacks last year, but made little headway in defusing the tension in their relations.

India blamed Pakistan-trained militants for the attacks, which killed 166 people.

The two countries’ foreign secretaries met for 90 minutes on the sidelines of the Sharm el-Sheik’s meeting Tuesday night, apparently to prepare for Wednesday’s meeting of the two prime ministers, according to a diplomat familiar with the meeting. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.