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The main players at Davos

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  • Over 2,000 guest will be in Davos for five days of discussions
  • Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger are co-chairs
  • Ban Ki-Moon and Robert Zoellick are other notable attendees
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(CNN) -- With over 200 public figures attending this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, the Swiss town is set to be a real-life who's who of international statesmen and politicians. Below we've profile a few of this year's big hitters.


Even at the age of 84 Henry Kissinger still commands the center of attention.

Henry Kissinger, co-chair of the World Economic Forum 2008

One of the 20th century's most controversial public figures, the former U.S. Secretary of State is one of the co-chairs at Davos this year. He had a huge role in shaping U.S. foreign policy between 1969 and 1977 under the Nixon and Ford administrations, and has occupied places in the public consciousness that range from charismatic statesman and urbane academic to Machiavellian wheeler dealer and a war-monger for his role in sanctioning the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. His award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 led Jay Lehrer, the musical satirist, to remark at the time; "It was at that moment satire died. There was nothing more to say."

The 84-year-old retired from the highest levels of politics nearly 30 years ago but continues to tour the world lecturing on international affairs and is chairman of his own political consultancy. Wherever he goes, he continues to be the center of attention. He will be giving his views on the main themes of this year's debate at the opening session as well as chairing a number of other seminars.

Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary-General

His position at the United Nations marks him out as the world's leading diplomat, but before taking the reins at the U.N. the 63-year-old South Korean was his country's long-serving Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. He also held numerous political and diplomatic positions where he honed his skills to become regarded as the consummate mediator. Upon taking over his current role at the U.N. from Kofi Annan (a fellow attendee at Davos) in December 2006, the career diplomat pledged to reform the U.N., vowing to make it leaner and more efficient. He also promised to focus some of his attention on the divided Korean peninsula.

Educated in Seoul, he went on to postgraduate studies at Harvard. He is from a poor rural area of South Korea and has a reputation for being mild-mannered, hard working and energetic. Time Magazine dubbed him the "Teflon diplomat" with inoffensiveness his outstanding quality, although some political commentators have doubted whether he has the steel to be an effective leading player on the world stage.

Tony Blair, former UK prime minister and co-chair of the World Economic Forum 2008

After spending a decade at No. 10 Downing Street, Tony Blair stood down as prime minister of the UK in June 2007. He won three elections as leader of the Labour party but left a mixed legacy of reform that has been overshadowed by his support of the war in Iraq. The privately educated Oxford graduate had a short career as a lawyer before moving into politics in 1983 when he was elected as a member of parliament at the age of 30.

Since his retirement from British politics, the deeply religious former prime minister has converted to Catholicism and has recently taken up a part-time job with investment bank JP Morgan, advising them on strategic and political issues. His reputation as an international statesman and interest in inter-faith relations saw him appointed as the Middle East envoy on behalf of the U.N., Russia, the United States and the EU, trying to find a solution to some of the division between Israelis and Palestinians. As one of the co-chairs at Davos this year, he will also take part in CNN's "Dateline Davos" debate.

Robert Zoellick, President, World Bank

Appointed head of the World Bank in June 2007, Zoellick holds a highly influential position, with access to every finance and foreign minister in the world. As president of the World Bank, the ultimate decision on how to spend the international institution's multi-billion dollar budget lies with him. His appointment was not without controversy, as many think he is too closely connected to George W. Bush, having served under the U.S. president from 2000 to 2006, first as U.S. trade representative and then as U.S. deputy secretary of state. When he failed to get the job as treasury secretary he left to work for investment bank Goldman Sachs.

With a passion for politics, the 54-year-old Zoellick is known for having a keen mind and being a hard-worker, but is reputed to be often difficult to work with. He took over the post at a time when the World Bank faced pressure to justify its role as a lending institution that sponsors major projects in an era of increasingly effective non-governmental organizations and grassroots initiative. At Davos he will be taking part in debates on global governance and development. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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