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Davos Economic Forum Opens

The World Economic Forum has begun in Davos, Switzerland, gathering more than 2,400 politicians and business leaders to talk about the international economy and problems like climate change, poverty and the Middle East conflict. From Paris, Lisa Bryant has more for VOA on the four-day meeting.

This year's meeting at the Swiss resort of Davos is titled "The Shifting Power Equation."  The theme aims to look not only at emerging economic shifts, such as new world heavyweights India and China, but also other changes and concerns: instability in the Middle East, for example, or the consequences of global warming.

Klaus Schwab, the head of the World Economic Forum that hosts these annual meetings, noted in his opening address that some, but certainly not all, of these changes are positive.

"The economy is booming globally and the signs for this year continue to be promising," he said.  "But underneath geopolitical, geo-economic and societal developments are many question marks, many risks, many imbalances, many inconsistencies."

The main sessions and many smaller meetings during the next few days will focus on a number of issues: climate change, financial security, aid to Africa, and reviving stalled global trade talks.  Trade ministers are due to meet on the sidelines of the Davos forum on Saturday.

In Davos, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose country heads the G-8 summit this year and is the revolving European Union president, appealed for more economic liberalization and fairer rules of trade.  All countries will benefit from both changes, she said, including African ones.

"Beyond the headlines of the media, we can say for Africa that more growth, more sensible economic policies means less internal strife, means less armed conflict," she said.  "But there is still enormous risks to be shouldered.  And what we can do is help them stand on their own feet, to help them in their own capacity, for solving conflicts peacefully."

The Davos meetings end Sunday.  They include representatives from at least 50 countries, along with heads of state like Merkel and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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