- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

GENEVA High in the snowcapped Swiss Alps, protected by helicopter gunships and 2,000 troops, the leading representatives of capitalism begin a debate tomorrow on how to improve an ailing world.
Often dubbed "the meeting of world masters," the annual event in the luxurious winter resort of Davos in eastern Switzerland this year has attracted close to 2,000 participants, including 29 heads of state or government, more than 80 ministers and a host of corporate giants and other pillars of private enterprise.
The cost of attending the five-day talking shop is $10,000 a person in addition to the $14 million spent by the organizers.
The World Economic Forum, as the event is known, is headed by 65-year-old German-born professor Klaus Schwab.
Before the meeting, Mr. Schwab described terrorism as the greatest challenge facing society since the September 11 attacks in the United States.
"Our guiding idea is that neither governments nor nongovernmental organizations can solve major problems alone," he said. "We merely prepare the ground. The rest is up to the participants."
Those include U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Presidents Vicente Fox of Mexico and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Microsoft's Bill Gates, Coca-Cola's Douglas Draft and myriad others.
To protect such a star-studded assembly, in addition to mobilizing 2,000 troops, the Swiss government has created a no-fly zone over Davos and ordered the army to shoot down any unauthorized aircraft.
In Davos itself, hundreds of police officers are being deployed and the personal bodyguards of the participants have received permission to carry firearms and use them if necessary.
This year's meeting, the 33rd, returns to Davos after last year's absence, when the conclave was held in New York then considered to be more secure.
This year, Switzerland accepted the challenge of sufficiently protecting what is considered one of the world's most influential gatherings.
As with such meetings in recent years, this one was denounced by opponents of globalization as well as opponents of war on Iraq.
A strictly controlled demonstration was allowed by authorities in the heart of Davos on Saturday.
Olther Bundnis, organizer of the protest, described the protective measures as "massively shrinking our freedom of movement" and an "attempt to criminalize our cause."


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