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IMF, World Bank Ministers Meet Amid Protests, Tightened Security - 2002-09-28

Finance ministers from major economies say they are committed to promoting economic growth, as the world struggles to recover from an economic downturn. The ministers are in Washington for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The ministers are meeting behind a tight cordon of security in anticipation of a second day of protests.

A big question in the discussions so far has been the situation in Japan. During Friday's meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the seven major industrial powers, Japan and its decade-long recession were a principal topic.

In the meeting, Japan's central bank chief sought to explain how his recent decision to purchase shares (equities) from banks would promote an economic recovery. Participants said there seemed to be a difference of opinion between the banker and Japan's finance minister. Some observers say the decision to buy shares may suggest that the central bank believes the Japanese financial sector is even weaker than financial markets assume.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told reporters Saturday he does not understand how the plan would contribute to a change in economic growth for Japan.

Finance ministers from Europe spoke optimistically about Europe's ability to snap back from its current slump. The French finance minister says things are not as bad as they seem. And the British minister says Europe will rebound sharply next year.

Saturday's meeting brings together the 24 countries that comprise the management board of the IMF, the financial rescue agency comprising 185 member nations. The group includes China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Brazil, as well as the major economic powers.

For the second day, downtown Washington where the meetings are taking place, is largely sealed off by barricades and several hundred police. On Friday more than 600 anti-globalization protesters were arrested. Police remain vigilant, but say the demonstrators' numbers are far fewer than had been anticipated. The financial meetings end Sunday.