The World Economic Forum is opening in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos Thursday amid very tight security. More than 2,000 top political and corporate leaders from 100 countries are expected to participate in the five-day meeting.

Attending this year's World Economic Forum are some 30 heads of state, including Brazil's new president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Jordan's King Abdullah, 80 government ministers and 1,000 business leaders. Among the agenda items are the war on terrorism, prospects for the global economy and Iraq.

One unique feature of the gathering will be the first independently organized public debate on Iraq's future since the return of United Nations weapons inspectors.

Nine Iraqi opposition leaders from various religious, political and ethnic groups are expected to debate what form of democracy might take hold in their homeland, given the country's complex history and cultural diversity. They are also expected to discuss institutional reforms and political arrangements that might be required to preserve national unity in the event of regime change in Baghdad.

In addition to the formal agenda, key participants, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, are expected meet on the sidelines of the conference to discuss ways to resolve the crisis in Iraq.