- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2001

GENEVA Protected by coils of barbed wire and Swiss troops, the world's leading economists today begin a verbal marathon to reconcile globalization with the demands of developing nations.

Fearing demonstrations similar to those which last year paralyzed a summit meeting on the same theme in Seattle, the Swiss authorities took unprecedented security measures to protect the 31st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the alpine resort of Davos.

The 12-man Davos police force was bolstered by police units from nearby areas and by 900 government troops. Authorities refused entry to an estimated 300 people who planned to join protests.

Ruth Metzler, Swiss federal minister in charge of police and security, said that the government feared bomb attacks and other terrorist action, but that the troops would not be used "to confront civilians."

The Bush administration is not sending an official delegation and the State Department cautioned American participants of the possibility of terrorist attacks.

The list of prominent participants is long, including some 20 heads of state; Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat; Thilo Bode, president of Greenpeace International; and religious leaders.

Globalization and its different phases, the future of the Balkans and the expansion of the European Union and its impact are among subjects to be discussed over six days at an estimated 60 seminars.

The meetings begin tonight with an address by Moritz Leuenberger, president of the Swiss Confederation, who hailed the meeting as a "real blessing" likely to set the stage for next year's economic development and cooperation between the developed and developing nations.

Through newspaper ads in Europe, the organizers appealed to participants to disregard possible protests and instead to concentrate on the essence of the discussions.

The World Economic Forum was founded in 1972 by Klaus Schwab and has since become a major institution, capable of influencing or reversing economic trends.

Mr. Schwab admitted that "globalization has produced a backlash that has stirred protests at gatherings of international institutions around the world."

Disregarding the threats and warnings from officials as well as various fringe groups, congress participants have filled the 82 hotels and inns of Davos, a mountain town of 12,000 perching at 4,500 feet amid snowcapped alpine peaks.

The congress is to end with an appeal for harmony between religion and big business.


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