IMF cancels annual meeting to let police handle 'immediate priorities'

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The Independent Online

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank caved in to the inevitable yesterday and cancelled their annual meetings planned for next week in Washington.

This is the first major international economic event to be called off because of last week's attacks and will raise speculation the same fate will befall the World Trade Organisation meeting in November. It was also the first time that the IMF/World Bank meetings had been disrupted by war or disaster.

The decision, which was widely expected, came after talks with the US Treasury and with the authorities in Washington DC. Horst Köhler, the IMF's managing director, and Jim Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, confirmed the meetings on 29 and 30 September werecancelled.

"This decision was taken out of deepest respect and sympathy for the families of all those touched by the horrific events of last Tuesday and in order to dedicate law enforcement personnel fully to the extraordinary and immediate priorities at hand," they said.

City police were counting on colleagues from other jurisdictions, including as many as 1,000 from New York City, to help them deal with what they estimated could be as many as 100,000 protesters at the meetings in September.

But it was unclear last night whether the meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven nations – UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – would still go ahead in Washington as planned on 29 and 30 September. Last week, the German finance ministry the venue might be moved from Washington. A spokesman for the UK Treasury said last night a decision would probably be made this week.

The IMF and World Bank did not set another date for their annual meetings, saying alternative arrangements will be determined later. Most protest groups had already cancelled plans to hold demonstrations.

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