Politics take centre stage at WEF

The World Economic Forum (WEF) turned its eye toward politics and the Middle East on Saturday, with visitors and leaders focusing on Iran’s push to develop nuclear power and creating calm in neighbouring Iraq.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was set to join United States Senator Saxby Chambliss for a candid dialogue on Iran’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric.

Later, Hajim Alhasani, president of the Iraqi National Assembly, and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi were scheduled to talk about their country’s future, including how to fight the stubborn insurgency that has taken root there.

Trade ministers were also going to meet for a third day to try and revive stalled talks in the Doha round before their self-imposed April deadline.

On Friday, Bill Gates, the world’s wealthiest man, said his foundation would triple the money it gives for eradicating tuberculosis and urged more countries, philanthropists and private citizens to do the same.

“This is a very tough disease,” the Microsoft chairperson and co-founder said. “It is going to take all of us—private sector, the pharmaceutical companies, philanthropy and governments in countries that have the disease—to participate as well.”

Meanwhile, the realisation that Hamas would lead the next Palestinian government dominated discussions on the sidelines of the forum, with most taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the group whose claims of suicide bombings in Israel have roiled the fabled road map to peace.

“The international community, especially from Europe, from the [United] States, Japan, the Arabs have been very supportive to the Palestinians,” Palestinian Economy Minister Mazen Sinokrot said.

“We have to give the new coming leaders a real coordination message. We have to give them a chance, and let us see what will happen.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his country to serve as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

Also Friday, the UN bird flu chief cautioned against thinking that the disease was losing its edge because of differing mortality rates in Asia and Turkey.

“We must still maintain utmost vigilance for and preparations for the next human influenza pandemic,” David Nabarro told reporters.
- Sapa-AP

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