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Rediff.com  » News » NAM Summit begins without Castro

NAM Summit begins without Castro

Last updated on: September 16, 2006 02:50 IST
The 14th Non-Aligned Movement summit began in Havana, Cuba in the absence of President Fidel Castro as Cuba's Minister of Foreign Affairs Felipe Pérez Roque gave the welcome speech.

"We are welcoming you amid the renewed effort by our people to cope with the difficulties and, in particular, to overcome the ruthless policy of isolation and blockade that we have been subjected to for more than 45 years," said Felipe.

"We are presently 116 countries from four continents, and we account for nearly two-thirds of the total members of the United Nations. Recently, we were pleased to admit two new members, Antigua and Barbuda & Dominica, whose delegations we are now welcoming in Havana in their first-ever Summit as full members," said Felipe.

The summit began on Friday morning amidst traffic jams on the street of Havana as many world leaders had assembled for the summit. Most leaders have stated that NAM is very relevant in today's unipolar world and every country has the right to sovereignty.

"Another two Caribbean nations will join us at the XIV Summit, Haiti and St Kitts and Nevis, to which we now extend the warmest welcome. Their admission is indicative of the interest of the countries of the South to become integrated into this forum -- where, without a doubt, we share common values and interests and, in a united and friendly manner, defend our right to live and develop as independent nations," he added. 

Earlier Castro met Venezulaen President Hugo Chavez and then Argentinean Deputy Miguel Bonasso.

There was a lot of speculation whether Fidel would be able to make it to the summit because of his ill health. It is however still unclear whether this octogenarian leader who is recuperating in the hospital will make it to the two-day summit.

Earlier Venezulaen President, Chavez who is known for his anti-US stance said Castro was hail and hearty but refused to comment on whether Castro would be attending the summit.

On Thursday evening, Cuban state television broadcast several minutes of the meeting between the two leaders that showed a fragile Castro recovering.

The voices of the two leaders however could not be heard.

"I didn't know whether I would see him in person or whether I was to interview a number of his trusted officials at a preparatory meeting. I couldn't believe my luck," said Bonasso in a statement.

"I was the first participant to the summit of the NAM who had the privilege of seeing the Commander, in his recovery process, as Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales had seen him before the start of the summit," added Bonasso.
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Havana, Cuba