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news 05 Sep 11

Belgrade to Lobby Non-Aligned States on Kosovo

Serbia hopes its role as host of the 50th anniversary summit will help prevent further recognitions of Kosovo and bring new business deals in the developing world.

Bojana Barlovac
Non-Aligned Summit in Belgrade
Non-Aligned Summit in Belgrade hosted by Tito

Around 600 diplomats and 178 journalists from around the world have gathered in Belgrade to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement on Monday and Tuesday.

The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of states that do not consider themselves formally part of any major power bloc. The movement was largely the brainchild of Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser, Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Yugoslavia's late leader, Josip Tito.

Today, 118 countries are members, while Serbia has the status of observer.

Serbia's President, Boris Tadic, started pushing the idea for Belgrade to host the anniversary summit in 2009 recalling that the Non-aligned Movement was founded in 1961 at a conference in Belgrade, when it was the capital of Yugoslavia.

While some have criticised holding the summit in Belgrade, saying it conflicts with Serbia's EU membership aspirations, the Foreign Ministry sees it as a chance for Serbia to rally support for its stance on Kosovo as well as encourage trade with Third World countries.

Most Non-Aligned countries have not recognized Kosovo's independence, declared in 2008, but some are under pressure from some European countries and the US to change their stance.

The summit comes right after a mini-wave of Kosovo recognitions, including Benin, Niger and Guinea-Bissau as well as the island state of St Lucia in the Caribbean.

On the other hand, the summit is seen as chance for Serbia's poor economy to reap benefits. As Serbia is not much of a player in the competitive markets of Europe and the US,  there are hopes that an exposition of the Serbian economy, to be held along with the summit, may open doors in markets in Africa, Middle East and Latin America.

The summit's working panels will focus on topics including global problems such as international law, the fight against poverty and disease and the movement's relationship to world powers like the US, Russia and China.

Memories of Tito's Yugoslavia will be evoked when Budimir Loncar, a former Yugoslav diplomat and creator of the movement, now in his late eighties, gives a speech.  

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