Small Demonstrations At G7 Summit

A small but vocal throng of protesters demonstrated outside a meeting of world financial leaders, a far cry from the unruly crowds that clogged the streets of the nation's capital at a similar gathering last spring.

About 200 chanting protesters toting signs and giant puppets demanded that global financial institutions cancel debt to overburdened poor nations.

"People over profit," read one sign. "Our world is not for sale," read another.

Protesters on Sunday were outnumbered by police officers who ringed the small urban park across from the World Bank where they had gathered. Metal barricades were set up around the protest area on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Financial leaders of the world's seven richest nations began discussions Saturday aimed at finding ways to keep the sputtering global economy from toppling into a recession.

The talks among the Group of Seven countries — the United States, Japan, Britain, German, France, Italy and Canada — got under way on time. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan were among the first arrivals.

The United States had good news to share: a better-than-expected 2 percent growth rate in the first three months of 2001.

Nonetheless, Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin was cautious in declaring that the worst of the global slowdown was over. He said the three-month U.S. rebound "was too soon to tell if there was a trend."

Even before the joint discussions began, O'Neill held a series of one-on-one sessions with finance officials of Britain, France and Germany. Later, he and Greenspan spoke met for nearly an hour with Japan's new finance minister, Masajuro Shiokawa.

O'Neill had said that the Bush administration was anxious to hear from Shiokawa about the economic policies that new Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who just took over this week, planned to pursue to get the world's second largest economy out of a decade-long slump.

After the discussions, Shiokawa told reporters that the U.S. officials had expressed appreciation for the program he outlined, including plans to overhaul Japan's troubled banking sector.

In addition to the weak growth in the United States and Japan, the finance officials were to discuss slower growth in Europe, which so far has been resisting calls for a cut in European interest rates.

French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters before entering Blair House, the government guest residence near the White House, that "every zone has to do its best" to promote a rebound in global growth.

Police-escorted motorcades brought some officials to the meetings, swinging open a gate at a spot where individuals with credentials could walk through.

"There will be minor protests but nothing we can't handle," said Charles Ramsey, the District of Columbia's police chief.

Protest leaders had predicted that this year's gathering would be smaller and more peaceful tan the protests a year ago that resulted in 1,300 arrests.

About 25 demonstrators picketed near the headquarters of the two finance institutions on Friday in the first of what they have billed as "militant but nonviolent" protests that will culminate with a two-hour rally Sunday.

Continuing financial problems in Turkey and Argentina have renewed worries of spreading financial instability among developing nations. A new $10 billion IMF rescue package for Turkey is expected to be completed over the weekend, and Argentine officials will hold talks with IMF officials on their economic difficulties.

The IMF earlier this week issued a gloomy assessment of economic prospects, slashing its forecast for global growth this year to just 3.2 percent, the slowest performance since the 1997-98 Asian currency crisis. The fund cut its projection for U.S. growth to just 1.5 percent and said Japan would grow by just 0.6 percent.

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