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World Bank-IMF Meetings End in Singapore

The annual meeting of the World Bank andInternational Monetary Fund has ended after two days of discussions in Singapore, with leaders of both organizations calling for more free trade and warning against protectionism. The World Bank president said increased aid was needed for the poorest countries, but reminded delegates that middle-income nations should not be forgotten in the fight against poverty.

The heads of the World Bank and the IMF ended two days of annual meetings Wednesday promising to push for free trade and a resumption of stalled world trade talks.

In his closing remarks, the head of the IMF, Rodrigo de Rato, said a rising tide of protectionism needed to be stopped before it devastated people the world over. He encouraged the big emerging economies, such as China and India, to support free trade, and promised IMF support for the Doha round of world trade talks.

"The special responsibilities of the G-7 countries and big emerging economies have also been very clear in this meeting," said de Rato. "And, we will support the movement to get the Doha negotiations right on track, and certainly not to give up any of the things that have been obtained up to now."

The two organizations said more aid was needed for the poorest countries, especially in Africa, if those countries are to reach the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015.

Robert Watson is a senior advisor for the bank on sustainable development. He says more political will and more cooperation is needed among the bank, governments and activist organizations before such countries can reach the goals.

"I think some countries will meet it. Other countries I think, won't meet it. So, I mean, there's a spectrum of where we are in the development process," commented Watson.

The Bank says partly developed, or "middle-income" countries are home to two-thirds of the world's poor, and should not be forgotten in the fight against poverty.

World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz said lending to such countries also contributes to the Bank's income.

"Middle income countries are and must remain a core client group for us to fulfill our mandate," he said.

Bank and IMF leaders also voiced concerns that corruption was impeding development, and urged wealthy nations to prevent corrupt practices in developing countries, and help return stolen assets that are sitting in developed countries' banks.