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WASHINGTON - The International Monetary Fund convention opens here today, with hundreds of finance ministers, central bank governors, senior government officials, academics, bankers and leading business executives from around the world slated to attend the event. Israel's acting finance minister, Ehud Olmert, however, has decided to stay away, opting instead to attend the Likud Central Committee meeting scheduled for Sunday.

Treasury director general Yossi Bachar will deputize for Olmert, while Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer will head the Israeli delegation and address the convention.

Previous finance ministers have always used the annual meeting as an opportunity to meet with counterparts from friendly countries, promote agreements, and even to try to forge ties with treasury representatives from countries that do not maintain relations with Israel. Fischer is slated to meet in Washington with the finance ministers of Italy, China, Russia and Singapore.

Israel's leading bankers will also be in Washington to meet with bank heads from the United States and Europe, with the objective of renewing credit lines ahead of 2006. They will also brief bankers from around the world on how taking the provident and trust funds out of the hands of Israeli banks will affect the banks' stability and profitability.

The IMF convention will hold discussions on the condition of the global economy, the oil crisis and the situation of the world's poorer countries that require debt relief. The convention will also include seminars on economic, financial and social matters, and will serve as an opportunity for government officials to meet with business executives and bankers.