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Non-Aligned Movement Divided on Iraq Resolution - 2003-02-22

Ministers from the world's developing nations call on Iraq to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction, while expressing "grave concern" over U.S. threats to use force against Baghdad. Their document will be presented to the heads of states at the summit on Monday.

The crises in Iraq and North Korea have been hotly debated during the run-up to the two-day Non-Aligned Movement summit, which will open Monday in the Malaysian capitol with more than 50 heads of state in attendance. Arab delegates have been promoting a soft approach towards Iraq, urging that the summit only 'encourage' Baghdad to cooperate with United Nations demands that it give up its weapons of mass destruction. The Arabs have proposed that Israel, instead, be singled out as the only country in the Middle East possessing such weapons. But delegates from the non-Arab countries have been insisting on a summit resolution demanding that Iraq comply fully with all U.N. resolutions.

Still, there appeared to be overwhelming sentiment among the delegates for a resolution condemning Washington's plans to invade Iraq and disarm it by force.

The United States and Britain have over 150,00 troops in the Gulf region prepared to go to war unless President Saddam Hussein complies with the U.N. demands.

Iraq's delegates, lobbying for support at the summit, have struck out at their neighbors who oppose a U.S. invasion, but at the same time have allowed U.S.-led troops onto their soil in preparation for a war. The wrangling came as U.N. weapons inspectors gave Iraq a deadline for destroying dozens of warheads and missiles, which the inspectors say violate restrictions placed on the country after the 1991 Gulf War. A refusal by Baghdad to comply with that order could be considered a justification for an invasion. Another contentious issue facing the NAM summit is North Korea's nuclear ambitions. North Korea pulled out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and expelled U.N. nuclear monitors last month after Washington announced that Pyongyang had admitted to having a covert nuclear weapons program.

The NAM diplomats have been asking Pyongyang to reconsider its decision to pull out of the treaty. Pyongyang appears ready to deny that request. Instead, its delegation has been lobbying the summit for a statement accusing Washington of having started the crisis The Non-Aligned Movement, which was formed as a neutral position between the Western and Soviet Cold War blocs, says its views are important. The delegates point out that six NAM member countries currently have seats on the 15-member U.N. Security Council, which only needs nine votes to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.