Swiss fear violence at Davos summit

Click to follow

The Swiss government will deploy twice as many soldiers as it did last year to protect political and business leaders as they arrive in the ski resort of Davos tomorrow for the annual World Economic Forum.

The Swiss air force will enforce a no-fly zone above Davos and has the power to shoot down any unauthorised aircraft. In addition to several hundred police, about 4,700 soldiers and airmen will be stationed in and around the town. The Swiss Defence Ministry has been instructed to deploy as many as 6,500 servicemen if necessary.

In effect Davos will be sealed off from the outside world during the forum. The resort is reached via a narrow Alpine valley and anybody going there will have to leave their train or vehicle and pass through temporary checkpoints several miles before reaching their destination. A demonstration will be allowed in the resort only on Saturday.

But there is concern in Switzerland that the sheer size of the multimillion-pound security operation at Davos could stretch security resources elsewhere. The fact that anti-globalisation protests are likely to take place at short notice in various Swiss towns and cities, rather than being focused on Davos, has sparked fears that the security forces may be wrong-footed. This happened last year, when anti-forum demonstrators went on the rampage in the streets of Berne, Switzerland's capital. Police seconded to Davos from Berne had to be airlifted back to the capital to help their overwhelmed colleagues regain control.

There have been small demonstrations in several towns and cities during the run-up to the forum and many Swiss believe that the protesters have been warming up to create more serious disturbances during the event.

The names of many of those attending the forum have been kept secret for security reasons, but about 30 prime ministers and heads of state will probably be present. Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, will give a speech, the White House says.

Other political figures expected to participate include Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, Jack Straw, Gordon Brown, former US president Bill Clinton and Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq.

The business world, led by the Microsoft chief, Bill Gates, will account for about half the overall turnout.