The G77, which groups 132 countries in the alliance of developing states at the United Nations, will discuss South-South partnerships, North-South relations and UN reform at the two-day summit opening on Wednesday in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The G77 has been tackling economic development since its founding in 1964. However, some members, such as Brazil, India and associate member China, have become rising economic forces on the world stage since then.

Qatar Foreign Minister Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabir Al Thani called on industrialised countries on Monday to honour their promises to help developing nations.

"Developing countries do not need new pledges. They await the effective implementation of previous pledges," he said.

G77 Executive Secretary Murad Ahmia said: "Our objective is to consolidate South-South cooperation in the economic, social and ecological sectors ... in order to achieve development."

Preferential trade

Despite the slow pace of cooperation among G77 members, "there is an improvement in trade exchanges among developing countries", Ahmia said, highlighting a preferential trade agreement introduced by 50 group members.

Ahmia said the last G77 summit in Havana in 2000 approved the creation of a "solidarity fund, which is currently functioning within the framework of the United Nations".

Among those in attendance are
Iraq and Iran's foreign ministers

Participants said G77 experts meetings in Doha since Sunday have discussed the possible creation of a banking institution for southern countries after a proposal by Arab Gulf monarchies.

Ahmia gave a cautious welcome to the decision of the G8 leading industrialised countries to wipe out the debts of the planet's 18 poorest states, amounting to about $40 billion.

"Any initiative which aims at cancelling the debts of developing countries is welcome," he said, but added that such measures should be made to all developing countries, without being
"politically motivated".

At least 39 heads of state are expected to attend the Doha summit out of the 118 countries likely to participate, organisers said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair may speak at the summit, before hosting a G8 meeting in Scotland next month where Africa aid will be a prime issue, although his participation has not been confirmed.

Security Council seat

On the political front, participants at the G77 summit were due to attempt to gather support for UN reforms that would "take into consideration the interests of the south", one official said.

Two G77 members, India and Brazil, are vying for permanent seats on an expanded UN Security Council along with Germany and Japan.

However, India's rival Pakistan, also a G77 member, has publicly denounced the plan.

"Developing countries do not need new pledges. They await the effective implementation of previous pledges"

Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabir Al Thani,
Qatari foreign minister

Representatives of non-aligned countries are due to meet on Monday on the sidelines of the G77 in order to adopt a common stand for UN reforms ahead of a September UN summit in New York.

G77 foreign ministers were also expected to draft a plan of action to be submitted to the Doha conference, in which the group will denounce Washington's unilateral sanctions against Syria and Cuba.

Syria is under US sanctions over allegations it sponsors terrorism, while Washington has had a comprehensive economic embargo on Cuba, the only one-party communist state in the Americas, since 1962.