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What does it mean to be "nonaligned"? The 90-some nations of the world's nonaligned movement do themselves a disservice by conveying it means to be tougher rhetorically on the West than on the East. This undermines their credibility and tends to court disdain for the movement itself.

The issue arises because the nonaligned adopted a document this week which is strongly biased agains the United states. Heaven knows, US policies are not above criticizing. But when the third-world countries go so far as to upbraid the US for not granting Puerto Rico independence (the islanders don't want it) or implying that it may renege on its promise to turn over the Panama Canal to Panama at the end of the century, they make a mockery of their professions of neutrality. Especially when similar expressions of indignation and outrage are not directed at the Soviet Union as well.

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Moderate voices among the nonaligned concede the imbalance but suggest that Washington's current diplomacy is perceived as hostile to the third world and therefore feeds such one-sided rhetoric. Perhaps. But the moderates should be putting up a better fight against the extremists who managed to hold sway at the recent meeting. It is precisely the latter's propagandistic distortions which help persuade some within the Reagan adminstration that the third world is not to be dealt with seriously.

The nonaligned can play constructive role outside the context of East-West relations only by showing they truly are nonaligned and treat the superpowers objectively. Otherwise, their cries ring hollow.

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