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Worldwide Economic Pressures Cloud IMF, World Bank Meetings

Rising oil prices, global trade imbalances and China's inflexible currency rates are among issues for discussion Saturday at the start of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The meetings in Washington begin a day after a gathering of the top economic officials from the world's seven major industrialized nations - the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Canada and Italy. The group issued a statement calling on China to convert its currency to a more flexible exchange rate as a means of addressing Beijing's trade surplus with much of the world.

The economic officials say the IMF needs to take a more aggressive role in monitoring the currency practices of its member nations.

The statement also spelled out what other nations could do to address global trade imbalances, such as the U.S. reducing its huge budget deficit.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.