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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Elite power brokers meet in secret

By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC correspondent in Paris

The world's financial and political elite are to hold a closed meeting in France on Thursday where delegates are expected to be focusing their attention on post war Iraq.

The Bilderberg meeting will be held in Versailles just before the start of the Group of Seven meeting of finance ministers in nearby Paris.

Henry Kissinger (L) and George W Bush
Henry Kissinger is believed to be attending this year

Bilderberg, which was founded in the 1950s by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, is said to steer international policy from behind closed doors.

Its critics say that it is a capitalist organisation which operates entirely through self interest.

By anyone's standards, it is a bit of a mystery.

There are no members as such - instead, an invitation list is comprised each year by an unknown steering committee, but participants are mainly leading and powerful figures in the fields of business and politics.

Political clout

The meetings are cloaked in secrecy and participants rarely reveal their attendance, although this year's list is rumoured to include the American banker David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger.

What the group actually does is no clearer either, although it's known to be an extremely influential lobbying group with a good deal of political clout on both sides of the Atlantic.

Key members of both the British and the US governments are said to have attended gatherings.

But critics accuse Bilderberg of being sinister and conspiratorial - if what the delegates are discussing is really for the good of ordinary people they ask, then why can't they publicise it?

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