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Davos elite leaves, fearing dark days

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  • Meeting of 2,500 business elite and global leaders draws to end
  • Global financial headaches dominate annual meeting
  • Davos Forum accused of overlooking issues such as Darfur conflict
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By Barry Neild
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DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- The world will weather its financial storm, but must battle climate change, poverty and conflict to reap a new "industrial revolution," the global business elite said Sunday, trying to dispel pessimism that has hung over a major meeting in Switzerland.

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Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, CNN's Hala Gorani with former UK prime minister Tony Blair

As the five-day World Economic Forum wrapped up in the remote ski resort of Davos, the event's co-chairs gathered for one last effort to steer the agenda away from market turmoil and promote its goals of achieving positive global change.

But the meeting -- which began a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve made a surprise 0.75 point rate cut as it struggled to calm roller coaster financial markets, a move that drew mixed reaction in Davos -- was racked with recession anxieties to the last.

There was also criticism that the annual meeting of more than 2,500 global powerbrokers -- often criticized for being little more than a talking shop -- had shied away from key discussing issues such as the conflict in Darfur. Video Watch coverage of the final debate »

"People have to keep in mind, throughout history we have always had cycles, people shouldn't be surprised," JP Morgan CEO James Dimon, one of the event's co-chairs told the closing debate, hosted by CNN's Hala Gorani.

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"In the past 10 or 20 years world economies have taken two billion people of poverty. We have the chance to do amazing stuff, the cycle will turn one way or the other," he said.

K.V. Nath, head of India's ICICI Bank said that while a slowdown in the U.S. economy would have global consequences, the process of decoupling -- the growing autonomy of other world economies -- would limit damage.

"Decoupling is just starting to happen, it is early days yet, nobody talks of a slowing down just yet. Decoupling has started but the U.S. is center stage.

"Three hundred years later when we look at this period of time we will say that this is like an industrial revolution taking place."

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, meanwhile, stressed the crucial role of economics in ending conflict, underscoring his role as Middle East peace envoy and the Davos meeting's efforts to shake its image as a corporate schmooze-fest. Video Watch debate on conflict »

"If there is economic development then the politics is easier. If the people are poor and miserable then it is harder," he said.

Blair added: "The good news about our world today is that idealism is the new realism and the reason for that is the interconnectedness."

PepsiCo chief Indra K. Nooyi, defended corporate efforts to combat global warming, insisting the concept of faceless businesses that pursue profit with no concern for its consequences was a thing of the past. "Corporation has soul," she said. Video Watch debate on envrionment. »

Blair added that he was confident efforts to tackle climate change would bear fruit, "but no one should underestimate the scale of the challenge."

He said: "President Bush is right, you could have a deal within the year. I mean I'm not saying that's it's going to happen but I think it's perfectly feasible to contemplate that but it's only going to happen if the facts on the ground change."

On Saturday in Davos, Japan's prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, stressed the need for environmental progress, proposing a 2020 deadline for countries to boost their energy efficiency by 30 percent. Watch exclusive CNN interview with Fukuda

But efforts by delegates including U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon, celebrity activist Bono and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, to drive ethical debate at Davos, drew harsh words from Nobel prize-winner Elie Wiesel, complained at the failure to tackle the Darfur issue.

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Wiesel, drew loud applause at the closing debate by also calling for Beijing to ease restrictions in Tibet, a demand that appeared to embarrass China Mobile boss Wang Jianzhou, another of the co-chairs at Davos.

"I would like China to open its doors to the Dalai Lama, so I can accompany him to Tibet," Wiesel said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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