- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2005

From combined dispatches

NEW YORK — Former President Bill Clinton yesterday convened his own gathering of world leaders in a Manhattan hotel, vying for attention with the United Nations summit across town.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, King Abdullah II of Jordan, left-wing financier George Soros and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were among those in attendance at the first session of the Clinton Global Initiative.

During the opening session, Mr. Clinton suggested the creation of an insurance program against terror attacks, saying such a program would promote private investment in places desperate for economic development but beleaguered by conflict, like the Gaza Strip.

“I would just like to ask that you consider setting up some sort of insurance structure,” Mr. Clinton said. “Then I think we’d have a lot more success in getting venture capital in there.”

In addition to speeches and panels on topics such as global warming and Middle East peace, the conference featured a cocktail reception last night at the Museum of Modern Art. Admission was expensive, with some attendees paying $15,000; the fee was waived for others.

Today, a panel will examine “Islam and the West,” with participants including Elizabeth Cheney, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney. An afternoon session will discuss the role of religion in political conflicts, featuring participants such as Gerry Adams, president of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein party, and former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

Also among the participants in the conference are Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz, Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, Queen Rania of Jordan and former Vice President Al Gore.

The conference is bankrolled by “major underwriter” Tom Golisano, a Rochester, N.Y., billionaire. Mr. Golisano, a prominent advocate of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use, ran unsuccessfully three times for governor of New York on the Independence Party ticket.

Other “inaugural partners” of the Clinton Global Initiative include the Rockefeller Foundation, Goldman Sachs, the Starbucks coffee chain, and such computer/Internet industry giants as Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Development Co. LP, Yahoo and Google.


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