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Showdown starts between Davos organisers and its opponents

Unauthorised protests turned violent last year when President Clinton visited the summit


Tensions between the organisers of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos and anti-globalisation protesters have already surfaced after the protesters rejected any dialogue with the WEF, while the Forum refused to hold talks with them "on the street".

Opponents of the Forum said on Saturday at a conference in Geneva that they would strive to rid the Swiss ski resort of the annual meeting, which is due to run from January 25 to 31.

Members of a Swiss anti-globalisation group, Anti-WTO Coordination, said they wanted to see the "Forum as it exists today, eliminated".

The militants said they were not going to rule out excessive action at Davos, which is situated in the south-eastern Swiss canton of Graubünden.

They see themselves as the driving force behind anti-Forum sentiment. "We are not looking for dialogue" with the WEF "because the Forum has no legitimacy in our eyes," they told reporters.

The Forum, whose founder and president is German economics professor, Klaus Schwab, issued a statement on Saturday saying it was always ready for an open debate on the effects of globalisation. However, it does not feel obliged to "go down into the street" for such a discussion.

The Forum "will not engage in dialogue with individuals or groups who resort to violence or confrontation which is aimed at attracting the attention of the media," it continued.

The Forum also said it "condemns those groups who are seeking to stir up violence".

The Swiss militants stressed that the police were in danger of adopting repressive and restrictive policies against the Forum's opponents.

Police in Graubünden are preparing their largest-ever operation in an attempt to prevent demonstrations during the five-day summit, which brings together leading political and business leaders from around the world.

The cantonal government said police reinforcements would be drafted in from all Swiss cantons and neighbouring Liechtenstein.

Graubünden has already rejected permission for a demonstration by anti-globalisation protestors during the summit.

Unauthorised protests turned violent last year when President Clinton visited the summit. The demonstrators were, however, prevented from reaching the congress centre where the summit is held.

The local authorities said an increased police presence was justified by the violent demonstrations during the summit last year, as well as disruption at other international economic meetings over the past year.

by Samantha Tonkin


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