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Developing nations summit gathers US foes in Cuba

Written by: Staff

HAVANA, Sep 10: Leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement of 116 developing nations will meet in Cuba this week for a summit that will gather some of the United States' fiercest critics just 145 km offshore.

The presidents of Iran and Syria, countries the Bush administration sees as members of an ''axis of evil,'' are expected in Havana, as well as a high-ranking delegation from another, North Korea.

Washington's longest-lasting ideological foe, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, is not believed to be well enough to chair the September 11-16 summit, weakened by intestinal surgery in July for an undisclosed illness that forced him to turn over power to his younger brother, Raul, and left him 18 kilos thinner.

Castro, 80, said last week he was on the road to recovery and would be able to receive some visiting leaders in private.

His main leftist ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, will likely fill the oratorical void and take up Castro's baton in the role of assailing Western capitalism in the name of the world's poor.

''Chavez may well become the star of the show,'' said Riordan Roett, director of Western Hemisphere Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington. ''He will certainly use it as an anti-American platform.'' ''Part of the color, though, will be lost if Fidel can't give one of his 3- to 4-hour rousing speeches,'' Roett said.

The NAM, which groups almost two-thirds of the member states of the United Nations, is expected to endorse Iran's nuclear energy program after Tehran ignored an Aug 31 UN Security Council deadline to stop enriching uranium, a process that could yield atomic bombs.

The developing nations will criticize US sanctions against Communist-run Cuba, according to a draft of the final document that is still under negotiation.


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