- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2001

The World Trade Organization will go ahead with its meeting in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar in early November, despite safety concerns in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent U.S. military action.
After a week in which the group nearly moved the meeting to another location, Director General Mike Moore yesterday issued a statement reiterating the WTO's intent to meet in the Qatari capital, Doha, from Nov. 9-13, barring natural disasters or further terror.
"If something seismic or catastrophic happens, we will reconsider," Mr. Moore said in a statement issued at WTO headquarters in Geneva. "But we're planning to come here to Doha in just over two weeks' time."
Mr. Moore added that 141 of the WTO's 142 members have said they will attend the Qatar meeting, with "one small country" which he did not identify absent from Doha.
The Qatar meeting will be the first WTO ministerial since Seattle in 1999, where efforts to kick off new trade negotiations collapsed amid sometimes violent protests and bitter disputes between rich and poor countries. Now, ministers want to begin a new round of talks on services, agriculture, investment and antitrust policy, but they still face many of the same fissures.
Following a meeting of trade ministers from many WTO members in Singapore last week, many officials were predicting the organization would decamp to an alternate site. Several ministers privately expressed alarm that Doha is not a secure place to hold the meeting at this time. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, citing "issues in the region that are beyond anybody's control," acknowledged their concerns publicly.
Singapore offered to host the meeting and Davos, Switzerland, was also discussed as a possible site.
But Qatari diplomats then embarked on a concerted diplomatic offensive aimed at keeping the meeting in Doha, diplomats said. The effort included demarches around the world declaring that moving it would be an "affront to the Arab world," one European diplomat said.
At the end of the week, according to the Financial Times, Vice President Richard B. Cheney spoke to the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Thani, and assured him that the United States would participate in the meeting.
The public announcement clears the way for trade ministers to move past the constant speculation about whether they would actually convene in Doha; that debate had produced considerable distraction from the difficult substance of the meeting, diplomats said.

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