- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

GENEVA — With U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and top Iraqis in attendance, planning and fund raising for Iraq’s reconstruction will figure prominently today at the opening of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“We expect quite candid discussions” about the next leg of democratization in Iraq and how it will be pursued, said Richard Samans, managing director of the World Economic Forum (WEF), in a telephone interview.

Vice President Dick Cheney and three U.S. Cabinet secretaries will also be seeking support for Iraq’s reconstruction at the annual gathering of the world’s political and business elite, as will five members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

Other political figures taking part include U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem of Libya, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.

“We will not have sustained economic growth across the world unless we have security, but we will not have security in unstable parts of the world without the prospect of prosperity,” the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, told reporters.

Altogether, about 35 heads of state and government, 75 Cabinet ministers and more than 800 chairmen and chief executives from the world’s leading corporations are slated to attend the estimated 250 sessions during the five-day gathering in the Swiss mountain resort.

But for many participants, the most valuable part of the event will be the thousands of discreet meetings that will take place on the sidelines between business and political leaders.

The theme of this year’s meeting is “Partnering for Prosperity and Security.”

A brighter outlook for the world economy will also feature in the discussions, along with debates about prospects for the weak dollar and Chinese currency.

To protect the VIPs, Swiss authorities are tightening security, including the use of up to 6,500 troops.

In recent years, WEF meetings have been marred by violent demonstrations from radical anti-globalization groups.

Mr. Samans said the WEF has been informed by Swiss authorities that “no official demonstrations have been approved or planned” for Davos. But there may be actions in other parts of Switzerland.

In contrast to last year’s session, which was marked by a gloomy economic outlook and the looming war in Iraq, WEF officials say they expect a more optimistic session this year.

With economic projections looking better in the United States, Japan and Western Europe, there’s “a higher degree of confidence we’ll have a modest degree of growth in different paths of the world,” said Mr. Samans, a former special assistant to President Clinton.

More than 50 prominent civil-society groups and religious leaders will participate, calling attention to issues such as poverty, health, education and human rights.

A study released by the WEF last week found that more than 70 percent of chief executives surveyed in 14 industries said socially responsible business practices are becoming important to investors.

Supachai Panitchpakdi, the World Trade Organization chief, will meet on the sidelines with trade ministers from several countries to advance the stalled Doha global trade talks.

Organizers also expect substantial discussion of the tight security measures imposed by the United States after the September 11 attacks and the impact of those measures on trade.

“I suspect [the issue] will not recede but become even more pronounced,” said Mr. Samans.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson will also take part.

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