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Poor nations plead for money at UN crisis meeting
* UN's Ban says economic crisis is worst in over 60 years
* Draft proposals urge more aid, debt relief, IMF reform
* Few leaders attending, Venezuela's Chavez may bow out (Adds Chinese and Cuban ministers, paragraphs 15-16)
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, June 24 (Reuters) - Developing countries had a clear message on Wednesday for a U.N. meeting on the global financial crisis -- we need money.
Planning for the three-day conference has been fraught with difficulties. It was first scheduled for June 1-3 but U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto postponed it to this week when it became clear negotiators had no agreement on a set of draft proposals for reforming the global financial system.
Although the meeting has been billed as a summit, no Western leaders are attending. Only a dozen presidents and prime ministers, mostly Latin American and Caribbean, showed up. Others taking part have sent lower-level delegates.
On the first day, speakers from developing countries made clear that they saw their nations as victims of a financial crisis they did not cause and pleaded with the world's wealthy nations to help them.
"We don't have the surpluses and we don't have the foreign exchange reserves that fiscal expansion in our import-dependent economies would require," Dean Barrow, prime minister and finance minister of Belize, told the 142 participants.
"If further devastation in our developing countries is to be averted, specific arrangements for the flow of resources to governments ... need to be put in place immediately."
Zimbabwe's Vice President Joice Mujuru pleaded for a "financial stimulus package" for her country's devastated economy, saying lack of foreign support imperiled a recovery plan drawn up by the unity government.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon backed the plea by poor countries for more financial aid. He said the world faced "the worst ever global financial and economic crisis since the founding of the United Nations more than 60 years ago."
He also chided the world's wealthy nations for reneging on pledges to boost aid to Africa.
"Surely if the world can mobilize more than $18 trillion to keep the financial sector afloat, it can find more than $18 billion to keep commitments to Africa," Ban said.
World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spoke of "a development crisis of immense proportions.
A set of draft proposals, which delegates plan to adopt by Friday, calls for increased aid and debt relief for poor nations, boosting representation of developing states at the International Monetary Fund and more supervision of hedge funds. It also warns against national trade protectionism.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Washington supports increased emergency IMF aid to the neediest countries as well as more U.S. aid. She said the United States had "a share of responsibility" for the current crisis.
She ignored suggestions for changing global financial institutions.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi joined a number of other speakers in calling for an end to the "inadequate representation" of developing countries at the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions.
Cuban Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz said the IMF and World Bank had "impoverished" nations around the world and should be abolished. He called for an "international U.N. conference to refound" the entire global financial system.
Britain's Africa Minister Mark Malloch Brown backed the call for more aid but said he saw little need for a permanent U.N. "follow-up mechanism" after this week's meeting -- something poor countries outside the G20 club of big developed and developing nations have called for.
Western diplomats said the low turnout of world leaders at the U.N. conference reflected widespread dissatisfaction with the way D'Escoto, a leftist former foreign minister of Nicaragua and Roman Catholic priest, organized it.
The run-up to the conference highlighted sharp differences between radicals who want to give the 192-nation General Assembly much more say in tackling the financial crisis and major powers intent on keeping control in their own hands.
Top speakers include Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, both leftists. Venezuela's firebrand President Hugo Chavez had been expected but may join the long list of absent world leaders, U.N. officials said. (Editing by John O'Callaghan)
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