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World Bank president: Poor nations need debt help

Protesters decried World Bank and IMF policies.
Protesters decried World Bank and IMF policies.

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Protesters targeted a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as they clashed with police (September 27)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The president of the World Bank said Sunday he was satisfied with the amount of aid the industrial nations are offering developing countries, but said they must move more quickly to help poor nations out from under crushing debt.

Events of the last two years have made progress in that area difficult, said James Wolfensohn at the joint annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The official meetings began Sunday.

"In the rich world, collapsing stock markets and corporate scandals have shaken confidence and mutual world," he said. "In the developing world, people have been badly hit by continuing wars and conflict, by falling commodity prices, a slackening of demand and continuing restrictions on their trade with rich countries."

World financial policies toward poor nations fueled two days of protests in Washington as the financial meetings got under way late last week. On Friday, police using a "zero tolerance" approach to aggressive protesters, arrested more than 600 people.

On Saturday police arrested only five people during in a series of peaceful protests throughout the city. Four were taken into custody for possession of a possible explosive device.


A peaceful gathering of protesters in Washington's Dupont Circle Sunday heard music and speeches and concluded with a march to Vice President Dick Cheney's residence to protest war with Iraq.

At the finance meetings, world finance ministers have recommended changes in the way the debt of developing nations is handled, effectively making it easier for poor countries to declare bankruptcy and develop plans with creditors for payback, a change opposed by many of the world's biggest banks.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said that offering a hand to severely indebted nations was a critical issue. Developed nations must operate within their means, he said.

"It is very important that other developed nations ... operate at the limit of sustainable growth for themselves, because without the large developed countries doing well themselves, it's much more difficult to pay attention to and provide capital for the development work that's so desperately needed in the emerging markets of the world."

Police gird for unrest

D.C. police were ready for the protests that filled the streets Friday and Saturday after months of planning that took place largely over Internet Web sites.

Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey said officers acted professionally during the protests.

Police arrested 649 of an estimated 2,000 protesters during Friday's demonstrations, but avoided the kind of mass violence that has marred other such demonstrations in recent years. Five people were charged with destruction of property, and the remainder were charged with failure to obey a police officer, parading without a permit or causing a disturbance.

On Saturday, a statement from D.C. police said two male and two female demonstrators taken into custody had coffee cans filled with either explosive ordnance -- like blasting caps -- or "spike balls," consisting of nails glued together. The four also had smoke bombs with them, the statement said.

The suspects refused to identify themselves, police said. They were scheduled to be arraigned Monday on charges of carrying a dangerous weapon, possession of a prohibited weapon and possession of implements of a crime, the police statement said.

At one point Saturday, about 40 protesters lay down in the street at the intersection of 20th Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. Police informed them that they would not be arrested, because, officials said, they were sure the demonstrators would have to leave eventually to use the restroom.

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