- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS — The International Monetary Fund's chief spokesman has rejected demands by protesters who are planning demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank when they meet late next month.

Thomas Dawson, the IMF's director of external relations, said yesterday it was regrettable that the threat of violence hanging over the annual meetings of the two organizations would limit discussions on serious world economic problems.

Mobilization for Global Justice, one of the main groups planning demonstrations, urged the IMF and World Bank on Tuesday to open their meetings to the public, cancel all debt for the world's poorest nations, help make education and heath care more available in these countries and stop funding projects that harm the environment.

"These demands are crucial and urgent," said Liz Butler, one of the demonstration organizers.

Mr. Dawson said both organizations consider their meetings open, with thousands of journalists and hundreds of nongovernmental organizations attending.

"It is true that some meetings are not open," he said, referring to two committee sessions that provide policy guidelines for the IMF and World Bank. "This is not at all unusual when governments get together to discuss market-sensitive information and decision-making."

He said what committee members planned to discuss was known in advance, and speeches by Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and other participants will be made available as they are delivered.

Mr. Dawson also said the two organizations had forgiven billions of dollars of debt owed by poor nations, but none of their 183 member countries had proposed the total debt forgiveness many protesters have called for.

He said poor countries with IMF and World Bank lending programs have increased rather than decreased spending on health, education and other social programs.

Mr. Dawson said although he would not speak for the World Bank, he believes its policy is to avoid projects that damage the environment and to learn lessons from those that had.

Many countries use the annual meetings to seek meetings with bankers and other private-sector investors. But Mr. Dawson said that would be difficult or impossible this time.

"We are trying to deal with this reality as best we can, but given the nature of the security concern, I don't think we had much choice" except to compress the normally weeklong meetings to two days.

About 17,000 participants, including heads of state, finance ministers and journalists, are expected for the Sept. 29-30 meetings.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and the U.S. Secret Service have reportedly discussed plans to close off more than 40 blocks in downtown Washington with 2? miles of 9-foot-high iron fence during the meetings.

The fence would enclose the White House and the nearby headquarters buildings of both organizations where the meetings take place.

The plans are aimed at reducing the possibility of property damage and confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement officers that have erupted at other international gatherings, going back to the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. One demonstrator was killed at this summer's summit of industrialized nations in Genoa, Italy.

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