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Saturday, 20 April, 2002, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
Thousands rally at Washington summit
Anti-war protester
Protesters demonstrated against the Mid-East conflict
Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in Washington to protest against Israel's military actions in the West Bank, the United States' war on terror and globalisation.

Mass rallies were taking place around the capital as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank began their annual spring meeting.

There are just large numbers of people who want to have their voices heard and that's what America is all about

Charles Ramsey, Washington police
Hundreds of police, fearing a repeat of the violence of previous years, sealed off the downtown venue as the protests got under way.

So far the protests have been colourful and noisy and police say they have made no arrests.

"There are just large numbers of people who want to have their voices heard and that's what America is all about," said Washington Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles Ramsey.

But security forces are taking no chances: rubbish bins and post boxes have been removed, while all police leave has been cancelled and reinforcements drafted in.

Anti-Israel protest

The BBC's Washington correspondent Justin Webb says a pro-Palestinian rally is probably the largest at the moment, with an estimated couple of thousand supporters.

Washington police
Police blocked off streets as a precaution

Demonstrators gathered in front of the White House, waving flags and posters reading "Free Palestine, no war on Iraq".

Pro-Palestinian protesters said they want to rival a demonstration in favour of Israel in the capital last week which organisers said attracted up to 100,000 people.

Our correspondent says demonstrations are covering a wide variety of issues.

Ryan Sarni, a 21-year-old student said: "We're all working under the same banner of pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-worker and pro-women.

"There is just diversity of tactics and viewpoints here."

A 30-foot (nine metres) balloon in the shape of the Earth, bearing a "For sale" sign, was displayed across the road from where finance officials met in advance of the IMF/World Bank summit.

Mass rally

Hundreds of anti-globalisation protesters have gathered outside the IMF building, and some are planning to protest outside the offices of Citibank, Coca-Cola and bio-tech firm Monsanto.

Protesters are demonstrating on a range of issues

Demonstrators from a range of groups are also planning to march down Pennsylvania Avenue - just blocks from the White House - before rallying on the steps of the Capitol Building.

After the first financial meeting, the Group of Seven developed countries said they had endorsed a plan aimed at easing debt crises in emerging economies, but were seriously concerned about the current Argentine crisis.

The group said prospects for global economic recovery were good, but rising oil prices could still pose a risk.

Officials from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada also said they had agreed to intensify efforts to cut off funding to international terrorist groups.

The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"The police aren't taking any chances"
The BBC's Jacky Rowland
"There is a common cause between the various demonstrators"
The BBC's Branwen Jeffreys
"Every police officer in the city has been drafted on duty to ensure security"
See also:

20 Apr 02 | Business
World Bank issues poverty warning
19 Apr 02 | Business
World Bank calls for more trade
18 Apr 02 | Business
IMF chief upbeat on economic growth
14 Jan 02 | Business
IMF chief calls for open markets
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