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Saturday, 7 July, 2001, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
G7 differ on economic outlook
Anti-globalisation demonstrators stage a protest in Rome
More protests are expected at the Genoa summit
Finance ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) leading developed countries meeting in Rome have given a mixed assessment of the recent slowdown in the global economy.

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel was upbeat, telling journalists there were no grounds for pessimism. Growth was slower, he said, but it was growth nonetheless.

High and volatile oil and energy prices are a cause for concern

G7 working paper
In contrast, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown told the BBC shortly before the meeting that the slowdown was far more severe than had been expected a few months ago.

Mr Brown called on the European Central Bank to cut rates to help boost the European economy.

The ministers are meeting in Rome ahead of the Genoa summit in two weeks' time, where the seven will be joined by the Russian President Vladimir Putin to form the G8.

At the meeting, United States Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill praised Russia's efforts at fighting money laundering - a major G7 concern.

Worrying developments

The Genoa summit will open amid widespread concern over the global situation, given the apparent weakness of the world's three largest economies - the US, Japan and Germany.

British Chancellor Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown: "More severe than we expected"
It is unusual - and worrying for the rest of the world - that all three should be into difficulty at the same time.

The impact of high oil prices has added to uncertainty about the timing of any recovery, G7 sources told Reuters news agency.

Since the seven finance ministers last met in Washington in April, the outlook for the Euro area, including Germany, seems to have deteriorated.

News about the US economy has been erratic, but G7 officials are reported to believe the ministers will say prospects there have improved.

Also on the agenda at the meeting was a discussion of the globalisation of the international economy and measures to prevent major financial crises and how to resolve them if they do occur.

Anti-globalisation campaign

The Genoa summit is likely to be the target of thousands of protesters opposed to the process.

Campaign groups are calling on the G7 to agree to write off the foreign debt of the poorest developing countries.

Although they say some G7 countries are sympathetic to the idea of doing more than they have already, they do not expect any concrete progress to be made at this meeting.

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