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U.N. chief sympathizes with economic protesters

By John Heilprin

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 17 2011 5:51 a.m. MDT

Swiss Federal President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, right, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, attend a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. Ban Ki-moon is on a working visit in Bern.

Lukas Lehmann, AP Photo/Keystone

BERN, Switzerland — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he understands the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement, given the frustration that financial crises are causing.

Ban told reporters during a visit to Switzerland that the finance chiefs from the Group of 20 rich and developing nations should listen to the people and come up with "actionable plans" to fix the problems.

"Business as usual, or just looking at their own internal economic issues, will not give any answers to a very serious international economic crisis," Ban said, as G-20 talks were being held in Paris.

"That is what you are seeing all around the world, starting from Wall Street, people are showing their frustrations, are trying to send a very clear and unambiguous message around the world," he said.

The G-20 finance chief have asked the International Monetary Fund to play a bigger role in fighting the eurozone's escalating debt troubles by asking it to propose ways to help contain national crises before they spill over globally. There are huge concerns that Italy and Spain are too big to be bailed out by the rest of Europe, if they go bust.

The U.N. chief appeared beside Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey in the Swiss capital, where talks with the Alpine nation's leaders focused on the global financial instability. Even the relatively strong, stable Swiss economy has been hurt by the crisis because of a run-up in the Swiss franc's value that makes exports and tourism more expensive.

Ban said he plans to tap Calmy-Rey for an unspecified U.N. role once she retires from Swiss politics this year. She is one of 22 leaders serving on Ban's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, a top priority in his second five-year term that starts in January.

"I will miss your presence, but I'm sure your engagement in world affairs will continue," Ban told her. "The United Nations will look forward to working with you, fully utilizing your expertise and wisdom."

On Sunday, Ban and Calmy-Rey opened the Inter-Parliamentary Union's 125th general assembly of global lawmakers in Bern. He also took a helicopter ride over the Bernese Alps to see first-hand some of the nation's fast retreating glaciers that scientists largely blame on rising global temperatures from fossil fuel-burning.

Ban thanked Switzerland for donating 50 million francs to improve U.N. European headquarters and agencies in Geneva.

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