Leading finance ministers comprising the International Monetary Fund policy making committee Saturday stressed the importance avoiding trade protectionism. VOA's Barry Wood reports on the meeting in Washington of 24 economic decision makers from rich and poor countries.

The chairman of the meeting British finance minister Gordon Brown stressed the urgent need to complete the long-stalled Doha talks to expand world trade. Brown said officials were encouraged by a message presented by the head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy. "In these last few weeks first of all there has been a formal agreement to resume the trade talks. Secondly there has been a meeting of the group of four (U.S., EU, Brazil, India) in Delhi-and that is the four major negotiators. And third Pascal Lamy came today to the International Monetary and Finance Committee to tell us that in his view it was possible to move quickly to a deal," he said.

The meeting agreed that officials from China, Japan, Europe, the United States and Saudi Arabia should continue to discuss ways to remedy the trade and financial imbalances that many experts believe pose a threat to global stability.

Separately the head of the World Bank continues to fight to retain his job following the revelation that he may have improperly boosted the salary of a bank employee with whom he was romantically involved. Brown says ministers have not been preoccupied with the controversy and that bank president Paul Wolfowitz is participating fully in the meetings. "He has of course issued his statement of apology. Having published the facts themselves, the (World Bank) board has to complete its work. I think we've got to respect the board process," he said.

The Bush administration is standing behind Wolfowitz, who prior to coming to the World Bank two years ago had been the U.S. deputy secretary of defense and a planner of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.