But in a country where public protests are rare and media must exercise a strict form of self-censorship, organisers warned that action would be taken against "anti-social behaviour".

"In the short term, the tourism sector, namely hotels, restaurants and transportation, will see an instantaneous impact" from the 58th annual joint meeting of the board of governors of the World Bank and IMF, Ibrahim Belsaleh, general coordinator for Dubai 2003, told AFP.

Dubai 2003, which will mark the first time the World Bank and IMF have held their annual meetings in the Arab world, will reap an instant $45 million cash bonanza for the hospitality sector, Belsaleh said.

The boost will come mainly through the direct spending impact of the influx of visitors, with more than 10,000 hotel rooms in the city booked for the 23-24 September event by the organising committee.

"This huge cash injection will have a spillover effect across economic sectors, which will be very positive for business for all emirates in the United Arab Emirates," Belsaleh said.

"The long-term benefits will far outweigh the $272 million that has been invested by the governments of the UAE and Dubai" to host the meeting, Belsaleh added.

"Peaceful and law-abiding protests" will be permitted during the meeting. "We welcome the expression of differing views in a constructive and non-violent manner"

Ibrahim Belsaleh
General Coordinator, Dubai 2003

Another long-term aim for image-conscious Dubai, which attracts five million tourists a year for a population of one million people, includes posting itself on the global radar as a leading destination for international events.

With oil resources running out, Dubai has launched a multi-billion-dollar drive in a bid to establish itself as the Gulf's leisure and business hub, and Belsaleh sees Dubai 2003 as the perfect way of pushing the emirate out onto the world stage.

"Given recent international events, which have had a direct and negative impact on our region as a whole, the Dubai 2003 project will bring the misconceptions about the region into its proper light and illuminate the many investment opportunities that exist in the region," he said.

Tourism and business in Dubai and the region as a whole took a nosedive after the 11 September attacks on the United States, the US-led war on Afghanistan and more recently on Iraq, the looming terror threat and associated travel advisories from western embassies.

Of the $272 million invested in preparing for Dubai 2003, the government has proceeded at breakneck pace to wrap up construction.

A convention centre with a total floor area of 8100 sq metres and a hall that can sit 4250 people has been completed in less than two years, while hotels have sprung up and the road network around the centre has been upgraded.

"The long-term benefits will far outweigh the $272 million that has been invested by the governments of the UAE and Dubai"

Ibrahim Belsaleh
General Coordinator, Dubai 2003

Belsaleh said that "peaceful and law-abiding protests" will be permitted during the meeting. "We welcome the expression of differing views in a constructive and non-violent manner."

But "relevant action will be taken by the police against any individual or organisation that commits offences against the laws of the UAE or undertakes anti-social behaviour or violence against  property or individuals."

Belsaleh hinted that the emphasis would be on welcoming accredited officials of "civil society organisations" while cracking down on protesters viewed as anti-globalisation activists, although this may be hampered by the fact that 33 nationalities do not need visas on arrival at Dubai airport.

Militant street protests by anti-globalisation activists have marked recent meetings of the World Bank and IMF, and Dubai must be hoping to mirror Qatar's much-criticised hosting of the World Trade Organisation in 2001, where protesters were restricted in number and unable to demonstrate publicly.

Another contentious issue that could raise its head before Dubai 2003 is the possible participation of an Israeli delegation.

Belsaleh refused to be drawn on the issue, saying only that it was the decision of the World Bank and the IMF, which boast 184 member countries.