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Postscript : Nonaligned Alliance Runs on Empty : The 1960s movement championed by Nasser, Castro and other charismatic leaders has lost its direction.

February 11, 1992|NICK B. WILLIAMS Jr. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LARNACA, Cyprus — There was a historical period for the Nonaligned Movement--a time in the 1960s when its leaders, snarling Third World lions like Egypt's Nasser, Indonesia's Sukarno, Cuba's Castro, Yugoslavia's Tito and others railed against the Old Order and drove Washington policy-makers into livid frenzies.

Here in Cyprus, the black-bearded Archbishop Makarios earned his spurs among anti-imperialists by carving out independence from Britain. Some American officials feared he would become the Fidel of the Mediterranean. The Nonaligned Movement was driving for influence in a changing world.

Now it's out of gas.

Meeting in this Cypriot port city last week, delegates from 53 of the movement's 101 member nations pondered the future of its place in a New World Order. "We are confronted with circumstances very different from those which faced our founding fathers in 1961," pointed out Foreign Minister George Iacovou of the host Cypriot government. Several ideas to revive the organization were put forward, Iacovou said, and "now we have to make head or tail of it all."

The Cyprus venue itself underlined a notable difference from the heady days of the 1960s. The meeting should have been held in Yugoslavia, holder of the current nonaligned chairmanship and an early leader of the movement. But Tito's political heirs were busy overseeing the disintegration of their country.

For a loose alliance that sought to find weight in a wedge between the United States and the Soviet Union, tilting to the latter, the ascendance of America and its allies has presented some hard options. "It is visible to the naked eye," remarked Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Ibrahimi. "Their superiority is a fact."

What to do? Proposals in closed sessions here reportedly ranged from abolition of the movement to creation of a secretariat--a professional staff that would give the Nonaligned Movement a greater sense of permanence. The organization has never had a staff, and its summits--the next one is scheduled for September in Jakarta, Indonesia--have been vehicles for the political ambitions of the hosts. Baghdad's bombed-out convention center was built by Saddam Hussein to house the 1982 summit, a gathering moved elsewhere when Iraq and Iran, two movement stalwarts, went to war with each other.

The movement represents a majority of U.N. members, but the sum of its political power has always been less than the individual influence of a few key leaders. Highest profiles have been held by tough-talking dictators of socialist countries, but the movement has rarely if ever spoken with a single voice.

It is a potential U.N. voting bloc of Afro-Asian countries, including the Arab world--a voice for the developing world against the industrial countries, for the south against the north. But its energy is more often poured into intramural fights.

Some still see potential, however. Iran sent a large, aggressive delegation to Larnaca, headed by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. Western diplomats who monitored developments interpreted his presence as an attempt by the Tehran government to take the reins of the movement, as it attempted to do recently within another big alliance, the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Iraq sent a one-man delegation, Wasam Zahawi, who assailed the U.N. Security Council, a U.S.-dominated body that has thumped Iraq for invading Kuwait. "Emphasis must be laid on a more active . . . role in the U.N. General Assembly, with a view to the latter playing an effective role in balancing the role of the Security Council," Zahawi said.

In all, more than 150 delegates came to Larnaca to weigh the future of the nonaligned. There were no Nehrus, no giants of that increasingly distant era when colonialism was rolled back in the Third World and newly independent nations had something to say. The rhetoric is shopworn now, critics complained.

Noted Godfrey H. Jansen, a Cyprus-based analyst: "The besetting sin . . . has always been and still remains hypocrisy: the void between declaratory policy and action policy, between words and deeds."

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