PARIS: Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad will take his first major assignment as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) when he attends the pre-G8 Summit meeting as a special guest of the economic grouping.
This year’s summit, to be hosted by France in the spa city of Evian from June 2 to June 3, is considered crucial as the G8 nations will come together after so much has changed since their previous meeting in Canada last year.
French Foreign Ministry deputy director for South-East Asia, Christian Lechervy, said President Jacques Chirac had invited Dr Mahathir for consultations with the G8 in his capacity as the NAM chairman.
He said the Malaysian premier was among 15 world leaders, who include United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, invited for the June 1 pre-summit.
Dr Mahathir would be the only leader from South-East Asia.
“President Chirac views Dr Mahathir’s participation with great importance and both leaders enjoy warm ties. We appreciate and honour the role played by NAM in shaping the affairs of the world.
“France is of the view that the G8 should be as open as possible and not act as a rich man’s club,” he told a group of Malaysian journalists who are here at the invitation of the French Foreign Ministry.
The G8, which observes a broad-based agenda to address a range of international economic, political and social issues, comprises the United States, Canada, Britain, Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan and France.
US president George W. Bush, who has come under heavy fire from France, Germany, Russia, Malaysia and many other countries for leading a military strike on Iraq, is expected to attend the meet.
Lechervy said the G8 meet would focus on four themes: Solidarity, with particular emphasis on Africa’s development; Spirit of responsibility, to be adopted in the financial, social, environmental and ethical spheres; Security, in relation to the fight against terrorism; and Upholding democracy through dialogue.
Malaysian ambassador to France Tunku Datuk Nazihah Tunku Mohamed Rus said Dr Mahathir, who is currently on leave, was the first head of NAM invited for a pre-G8 Summit.
She said the invitation to Dr Mahathir proved Chirac’s commitment to build a bridge between the developed and developing worlds.