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Tzech, Prague, VIKTORY S26 MEDIA: Early Close of the IMF Meeting

From SOncu@aol.com
Date Wed, 27 Sep 2000 14:56:13 -0400


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IMF Meeting Closes Early  

By HANS GREIMEL
.c The Associated Press

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (Sept 27) - The weary captains of global capitalism 
said Wednesday they were finishing the annual summit of the IMF and World 
Bank one day early, but insisted their business was done and they had not 
been derailed by violent street protests.

Bank officials were reading final statements early Wednesday evening, saying 
their only business Thursday, the original closing day, would be to hold a 
news conference.

''They moved more quickly than anticipated - they finished ahead of time,'' 
said David Hawley, a spokesman for the International Monetary Fund. ''It has 
nothing to do with the protests.''

The mood Wednesday morning had been decidedly glum, but Hawley said the 
finance officials had not canceled any speeches or meetings before they got 
to the close.

Delegates had filed past metal barriers and thousands of police, with some 
worried for their safety in the wake of raging street riots the day before 
that trashed the city center.

Martin G. Dlamini, central bank governor from Swaziland, said he had canceled 
a business meeting outside the massive convention center because he was told 
by authorities it was not safe.

''Whether these protesters will attack us - they may,'' Dlamini said. ''We 
from less developed countries understand some of the issues being raised. But 
this does not give us strength.''

Still, like many of the 14,000 other delegates at the joint annual meeting of 
the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Dlamini hoped to use day two 
for tackling issues of debt relief and the war on poverty.

Trouble in the streets broke out again early Wednesday when dozens of people 
scuffled with police outside a hotel where IMF and World Bank delegates were 
staying. Authorities quickly pushed the angry crowd away from the building, 
and police spokesman Jiri Suttner said about 100 activists were detained - 
raising the overall number of detentions to more than 500.

Later, about 300 or 400 protesters began marching from a town square toward 
the police station, but were stopped by anti-riot police. The activists 
retreated to a town square, where they began cheering when they heard the 
meetings were closing early.

Protest leaders said they were caught off guard by the end of the meeting, 
but were quick to try to claim credit.

''If that is true I am really excited about it - that would be a real 
success,'' said Cyanne Loyle with the Initiative Against Economic 
Globalization, which had organized the mass demonstrations Tuesday intended 
to echo those at financial meetings in Seattle and Washington.

Street protests raged a day earlier, with activists throwing Molotov 
cocktails and rocks at riot police, who responded with tear gas and water 
cannons. The fighting left more than 70 people injured, including 55 police 
officers.

Police said Wednesday they believed 12,000 protesters had been on hand, far 
more than the estimate of 5,000 they used Tuesday.

Top IMF and World Bank officials insisted the demonstrators had it all wrong 
- that the agencies are not the enemies of the world's 2.8 billion poor but 
the biggest lenders to poor countries needing cash infusions.

Representatives from the 182 assembled nations tried to give their own spin 
on the protests, saying images of hooded anarchists hurling rocks at 
black-clad riot police did not taint the image of the Washington-based 
lending groups.

That's despite the fact that turmoil trails their meetings, with 
anti-globalization activists wreaking havoc at the spring gathering in 
Washington.

''This has been an exception rather than the rule,'' IMF spokesman William 
Murray said early Wednesday. ''We found the actions Tuesday in Prague 
deplorable.''

IMF and World Bank officials have been scrambling to refashion the annual 
program to place greater emphasis on poverty reduction, hoping to blunt 
claims that two giant bureaucracies exist mainly to do the bidding of the 
rich countries holding a majority of voting shares.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn and IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler 
insisted Tuesday their institutions have heeded the calls of responsible 
critics for reform and more openness.

But some delegates said that's not enough, and expressed sympathy for the 
protesters.

''It helps bring the cause to the forefront and helps public opinion in the 
countries where it matters,'' said Mawampanga Mwana Nanga, IMF governor from 
the Congo, a country buried in $18 billion in foreign debt.

Nanga said it was especially important to be vocal in rich countries such as 
the United States, saying violence was sometimes needed to wake them from 
their slumber.

A delegate from tiny Papua New Guinea, watching the smoke drift across the 
city, said he felt the demonstrators had a point in trying to raise the 
awareness of poverty issues.

''We are hoping the developing world will be listened to,'' said Vele Iamo.

************************

IMF Wraps Up First Part of Meeting a Day Early

By Janet Guttsman
Reuters

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (Sept. 27) - The International Monetary Fund and World 
Bank wrapped up their formal annual meetings a day early on Wednesday, 
cutting a morning of speeches from their three-day agenda after talks marred 
by violent protests. 

South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, the chairman of this year's 
meeting, said 47 formal set piece speeches from finance ministers and central 
bank chiefs had been concluded ``in record time.'' 

Highlighting the challenges of economic stability, equity and the need to 
reform the two global lenders, he added, ``Our task is to turn words into 
deeds, and in this, we cannot fail.'' 

Officials stressed that bilateral meetings would continue on Thursday, the 
day originally scheduled for closing speeches by Manuel and others, and IMF 
Managing Director Horst Koehler told CNN Television the schedule change was 
not due to the protests. 

``Our very efficient chairman made a proposal to the plenary whether we 
should end today, and we agreed,'' he said. 

But World Bank vice president Mats Carlsson admitted the demonstrations had 
encouraged the decision to move the closing ceremonies ahead a day. 

``We are having a consensus on many of the development issues, but it 
probably is also prompted by the demonstrations yesterday,'' Carlsson told 
Reuters Television. 

``But today everything is calm and some things will still be going on 
tomorrow.'' 

Tuesday, the first day of the meetings, was dominated by running battles 
between police and anti-capitalism activists who argued that the two global 
lenders were worsening the lot of the poor and suggesting the wrong ways to 
solve countries' problems. 

At the height of the battle protesters stormed to within yards of the edge of 
the secure zone surrounding Prague Congress Center, lobbing cobblestones at 
delegates and pelting them with eggs. Some 55 police officers and a few dozen 
demonstrators were injured in a day and a night of fighting. 

``I share with my colleagues the feeling of distress from the problems that 
have arisen on the streets,'' World Bank President James Wolfensohn said in 
his closing address to delegates. ``We regret that there were those whose 
sole purpose was destruction, which colored the currents outside these 
buildings.'' 

Almost 12,000 police were drafted in to protect the delegates and quell the 
protests. Many delegates have already left and the bill to pay the police on 
Thursday -- a public holiday in the Czech Republic -- would have been 
enormous. 

INPEG, the main protest group, said it was delighted that things were winding 
up ahead of time. 

``I don't know whether this is directly our achievement but we surely 
contributed to it,'' said spokeswoman Alice Dvorska. 

INPEG had promised to keep its protests peaceful, and Dvorska said she was 
unhappy about the violence. 

The protesters, wielding sticks and hurling stones torn from Prague's cobbled 
streets, had briefly besieged the Congress Center on Tuesday until they were 
driven back by police using truncheons, tear gas, dogs and stun grenades. 

Delegates deplored the violence and gave their support to the IMF and World 
Bank, institutions which the protesters insisted should close down. 

``Violence has no place in a civilized society and I stand here on behalf of 
India, the land of Mahatma Gandhi who espoused the cause of nonviolence, and 
I condemn the violence which was unleashed here yesterday,'' Indian Finance 
Minister Yashwant Sinha told fellow delegates. 

``Whether the IMF and the World Bank exist or do not exist is a matter which 
will be decided by the will of the 182 countries who are represented here, 
not by a handful of hoodlums in the streets of Prague.''

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