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The BBC's Craig Swann in Prague
"It is hard to say whether the protests will be like those in Seattle"
 real 28k

World Bank President, James Wolfensohn
"What is happening outside is that people are scared"
 real 28k

The BBC's Andrew Walker in Prague
"Some wore chains to show the effects of developing world debts"
 real 28k

Monday, 25 September, 2000, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK
Protesters target Prague talks
Protesters hang from Prague bridge
Anti-globalisation protesters on Prague bridge
By BBC News Online's Steve Schifferes in Prague

Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are continuing in Prague amid controversy over plans to tackle poverty and debt in the world's poorest countries and protests over globalisation.

Protest organisers have vowed to blockade the venue for Tuesday's meeting, preventing delegates from leaving, despite a police ban on the demonstration.


19,000 children a day are dying - if the debt situation was happening in London or Prague we would call it a holocaust

U2's Bono, campaigning in Prague
Three protesters saying they represent the Direct Action Network hung over from the main road bridge linking the Prague Congress Centre with the centre of the city for several hours.

The campaigners unfurled a banner saying "People not profit" before being arrested by the police.

But a BBC correspondent who has visited the protesters' campsite says that there are far fewer people there than expected.

The police had said that 15,000 to 20,000 were thought likely to demonstrate on Tuesday.

Bono speaks out

Bono from rock band U2, who is in Prague to lobby for more debt relief, said: "Violence is always dumb but noise isn't.

"People feel resentful if they don't feel listened to. That leads to frustration and anger and that could cause riots.

"19,000 children a day are dying. If the debt situation was happening in London or Prague, we would call it a holocaust.

"We need to treat the situation as a state of emergency."

Globalisation

Jashwant Sinha, India's finance minister and chair of the World Bank's development committee, has said that globalisation must be managed in the best interests of everyone in the world, especially the poorer countries.

Debt protest in Prague
Debt repayments are not going to be frozen
James Wolfensohn, the head of the World Bank, added that globalisation was probably inevitable, and the protesters were wrong to think that it was a process was under the control of the international institutions.

However, he said that he understood some of the concerns, with workers worried about their jobs, for example, and it might be possible to influence the pace of change.

They were speaking at the conclusion of the World Bank's policy-making body, the development committee, which deferred consideration of the question of further aid to developing countries hurt by the sharp increase in the price of oil.

Oil aid

On Sunday, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown, said if the oil price rise was sustained, it would have "devastating consequences" for Third World countries.

Mr Wolfensohn said he was hopeful that the oil price would continue to drop as it had on Monday, but that the Bank stood ready to help poor countries and that it would "reconsider the amount of debt relief for countries seriously affected by exceptional external shocks."

But debt relief campaigners told the BBC that such a move would a mere "sticking plaster" compared to the Bank's failure to endorse their demands for 100% of the debts to be cancelled.

U2's Bono met Mr Wolfensohn, who said he greatly admired the singer, but could not go "100% up the mountain with him" to give full debt relief.

The head of Jubilee 2000 UK, Anne Pettifor said she was "angry and deeply disappointed" by the latest developments.

"The empty rhetoric on debt relief and poverty reduction rings even more hollow," she said.

The debt campaigners argue many poor countries will be no better off after debt relief than they were before, and will still have to repay more money to rich countries than they will be able to spend on health or education.

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See also:

20 Sep 00 | Business
IMF pushes for debt relief
24 Sep 00 | Business
IMF hints at oil deal
25 Sep 00 | Business
'Widespread' discontent at IMF
25 Sep 00 | Business
Does growth benefit the poor?
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