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All-star political cast gathers in Egypt

Castro, Gaddafi, Mubarak to the stage, please, the Non-Aligned Movement summit is about to begin.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi attends the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, July 15, 2009. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

CAIRO — It has a star-studded cast and a backdrop to make a Hollywood set designer drool.

And when the curtain went up on this year's Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Shiekh on Wednesday, the lead actors didn't disappoint.

First up to the microphone, one of the veteran leaders of the not-so-free world, Egyptian president, and incoming NAM chairman, Hosni Mubarak.

“We face the largest part of its repercussions and pressures and suffering,” he said of the continuing global economic malaise. “We call for a new international political, economic and trade order — a more just and balanced order that prevents discrimination and double standards, achieves the interests of all, takes into account concerns of developing countries and establishes democratic dealings between rich and poor states.”

Cuban President Raul Castro continued the theme, discussing the collapse of the global economy: "Developing countries were the most affected by the financial crisis … ."

He continued, taking a not so veiled swipe at the West: "And as usual, the wealthy countries were the source of the current crisis, which was affected by the ... illogic of the international economic order that depends on blind market principles and consumption, and wealth of the few.” 

That left it to Libyan president Moammar Gaddafi to vary the script, perhaps even entertain what must be a tough crowd, with delegates as diverse as the Australian trade minister, the Pakistan and Indian prime ministers and a gaggle of highly ranked Chavenistas, though not the Venezuelan president himself.

Iran had a right to pursue nuclear energy, Gaddafi insisted, though he tempered the statement by saying that the Shiite Islamic Republic should not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons.

Two hotly anticipated appearances — that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya — were a bust, though both were the topic of significant discussion.

In all, about 55 heads of state from the 118 countries of NAM turned out on the opening day of its 15th summit which, observers agreed, would not lead to much in the way of accomplishments (although for followers of such events it certainly would have entertainment value). Rather, observers said, the summit provided a public platform for some of the world's most charismatic statesmen to speak on some of the world’s hot button issues — such as the world economy. 

Any diplomacy and deal-making, they said, would take place in smaller closed-door meetings and have little bearing on world events.