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G-7 Finance Ministers Discuss World Economy, Trade, Debt - 2002-09-28

Finance ministers from around the world held various meetings in Washington Friday amid protests that resulted in some 600 arrests.

The finance ministers meetings took place in downtown Washington behind police barricades. Ministers from 24 developing countries met at International Monetary Fund headquarters while two blocks away ministers from seven major industrial countries met at Blair House, an official residence next to the White House.

These regularly scheduled meetings focused on the sluggish condition of the world economy, oil prices, the prospect of war in the Middle East, trade, and the debt problems of the poorest countries.

What is called the Group of Seven meeting began in the afternoon and continued into the evening. The G-7 set policy for the IMF and World Bank, whose annual meeting takes place Sunday.

The G-7 meeting was chaired by U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. Central bankers and finance ministers from four European countries, Canada, the United States and Japan attended. U.S. central bank chief Alan Greenspan was said to be quite optimistic about global growth prospects for next year. The British finance minister, Gordon Brown, expressed some concern about the recent slowdown in both Europe and Japan. Russia's finance minister attended part of the G-7 meeting.

The protesters, mostly American college students, were generally peaceful but police made numerous arrests of people they regarded as potential troublemakers. The number of protesters was considerably smaller than had been expected.

The World Bank chief economist Friday called on rich countries to open their markets to more exports from developing countries. He said failure to do so would be hypocritical and threaten the outcome of the current Doha (Qatar) round of negotiations to expand global trade.