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World Economic Forum Raises Hope of Peace, Prosperity in Mideast


Hundreds of leaders from the world of business and politics are trying to forge a strategy for rebuilding Iraq, reinvigorating the economy of the Middle East and bringing peace to the region. The World Economic Forum is holding a special meeting in the Dead Sea resort of Shuneh in Jordan.

Officials from the World Economic Forum are calling this meeting the Global Reconciliation Summit. Organized in just eight weeks, the meeting brings together business and political leaders at a resort on the shores of the Dead Sea. They are here to talk about ways the private sector can work with governments in the region and around the world to revive the lagging economy of the Middle East.

The host, Jordan's King Abdullah, told the delegates they have an unmatched opportunity to help create a new future of peace and prosperity in the region.

"My friends, there must be no more missed opportunities," he said. "It is time to listen to the prayers, dreams and expectations of those who live in and love the Holy Land. It is time to lead the way to peace - a peace that works, a peace that lasts."

The meeting is being attended by heads of state, diplomats and leaders of some of the world's biggest corporations. The president of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, said the only solution to the Middle East's problems is for all sectors of society to work together.

"The challenges of this region and the world in general cannot be met by political leaders alone, nor by business leaders, or leaders of civil society alone," he pointed out. "We need a cooperative effort that concurrently creates political stability and justice, as well as economic prosperity and social progress."

On the sidelines of the meeting Sunday, representatives of the so-called "Quartet" will meet to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Quartet groups the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. They will be discussing their "Road Map" to peace in the Middle East.

King Abdullah stressed that ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a key to regional stability and prosperity.

"The 'Road Map' has been sanctioned by the international community. It must now be implemented," he said. "This will require more than words and wishes. The friends of peace within the region and around the world must stay the course. That means real commitment - commitment that will test our leadership resources and our deepest morality."

In addition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the other main issue on the table at the meeting is the reconstruction of Iraq. Several senior members of the Iraqi transitional authority, both Iraqis and Americans, are attending the meeting, as are a number of Iraqi business people.

One of them, Mahmoud Ahmed Uthman, who heads a financial investment company, told reporters before the meeting began that Iraq's transition will take time. Mr. Uthman said, before the war, the entire Iraqi state centered around one person: Saddam Hussein.

"And when that person was gone, the whole state collapsed," he explained. "In this emptiness, it is not very easy to start from scratch. But attempts are being made, and work is done. And so far, in fact, there has been a lot of improvement. But, there is still a lot to be done."

The World Economic Forum special meeting continues through Monday.

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