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French heat doesn't stop WTO protesters
( 2003-08-09 10:51) (Agencies)

Braving a heat wave, activists by the thousand converged on a rocky plateau in southern France on Friday to call attention to their complaints against the World Trade Organization.

The anti-globalization protesters, many carrying coolers or wearing wide-brimmed hats, began a three-day gathering in the rural Aveyron region to criticize the trade organizations before it meets next month in Mexico.

"Today, we're denouncing the non-democratic nature of the WTO," militant French farmer Jose Bove told a crowd at the kickoff of the protest. "The WTO wants to impose its law on us."

Bove and many of the other protesters say the WTO enriches developed countries at the expense of the environment and poorer nations.

France's best-known farmer, Bove was released from prison several months ahead of schedule on Aug. 2 after a court replaced his term for destroying genetically modified crops with community service. He was jailed in June and was to serve 10 months.

Protest organizers, who expect up to 100,000 people at the three-day series of forums, speeches and other festivities, said about 50,000 had arrived on Friday. Police put the figure at 27,000.

Rescue workers kept close watch for heat-related illnesses or malaise as temperatures hit the 104 degrees Friday afternoon. No cases of sickness were reported, but local leaders were urging attendees to drink lots of water.

The WTO's 146 members are to meet in Cancun, Mexico, from Sept. 10 to Sept. 14 for a crucial staging point in negotiations on a global trade treaty to be completed by the end of next year.

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