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World Economic Forum Focuses on Global Cooperation

The World Economic Forum met in Turkey for a three-day meeting to come up with solutions to the global economic crisis. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

Two key messages came out of the gathering of the World Economic Forum: Tough times lie ahead for the world economy. But there are reasons for cautious optimism.

There was a general consensus among participants at the meeting that the global economy would not recover from the slowdown for 18 months to three years. And, top economists and bankers warned the severity of that slowdown and its length was dependent on whether international cooperation between governments and financial and business institutions continued.

There was a warning that companies in the developed world would succumb to public calls for protectionism and withdraw from emerging markets, causing more damage to their already struggling economies.

Senior Adviser to French bank BNP Paribas, Jean Lemierre, said that European and U.S. politicians may find such pressure difficult to resist because of taxpayers recently coming to the rescue of failing banking institutions. "You have a new partner today, taxpayers, hundreds of millions of taxpayers in European and United states, they were not so much part of the debate, now they key part of the system because they have saved the system," he said.

The three-day meeting, which ended Saturday, also played up some positive aspects of the crisis. Many focused on business opportunities that might arise from the economic slowdown and how Turkey could act as a bridge between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said there was an upside to possible future economic shocks, which could further weaken an already fragile international financial system. "I think this crisis made us realize we are living in a global village , that we are so close and so affected from each other. And we can act together in a meaningful way when there is a necessity," he said.

This month, leaders of the countries with the most powerful developed and developing economies will meet in Washington in an effort to figure out what caused the global financial crisis and what they can do about it. President Bush will host the meeting of the Group of 20 - a meeting seen as important to maintaining the momentum of international cooperation.