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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
IMF meeting 'to be called off'
IMF headquarters in Washington
IMF: Get-together "to be postponed"
The annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank scheduled for the end of this month are almost certain to be postponed, the German finance ministry has said.

The get-togethers at the Washington DC headquarters of the two organisations are usually a highlight of finance ministers' and central bankers' calendars .

This year's sessions - usually a week long - had already been cut down to two days, 29-30 September.

The reduction was made following demonstrations from anti-globalisation protestors which have dogged every international summit since the World Trade Organisation's abortive talks in Seattle in 1999.

But, following the terrorist attacks on the US on Tuesday, it is likely that the meetings, along with the G7 finance ministers' meeting scheduled for 28 September, will be put back.

Germany breaks ranks

"At the moment one does not see oneself in the position to let the IMF meeting take place in Washington on the scheduled date," a spokesman for the German finance ministry said.

"After the talks so far, it is virtually ruled out that the meetings will take place as planned."

The same went for the G7 meeting, he said, adding that the ministry had been in contact with the other G7 nations.

Those responsible for law enforcement in Washington DC itself are in little doubt that the meetings should no longer go ahead.

"We are recommending that the meetings between the IMF and the World Bank be cancelled," said the city's police chief, Charles H Ramsey.

The scale of the expected protests meant that plans for policing the event called for thousands of officers to be drafted in from New York.

In the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy, that is likely to be impossible now.

The World Bank and the IMF themselves say a decision has yet to be made.

"There was a 24-hour moratorium on discussing this question for obvious reasons... people have more important things on their minds," one World Bank official said.

Insiders doubtful

But reports are emerging that confirm what the German finance says.

Reuters quoted IMF sources who said that the fund's board was keen to leave such a decision to the US government when it discussed the situation on Wednesday 12 September.

The agency said board members were given an e-mail from the dean of the World Bank's board, Russian representative Andrei Bugrov, to Bank President James Wolfensohn.

The e-mail "expressed the view that the meetings should be called off for humanitarian and security reasons", Reuters said.

Those involved in planning the huge protests have already scaled back preparations, out of respect for those affected by the attacks.

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