Business leaders reviewed the week's discussions, which covered the potential growth of China and India, Iran's nuclear programme, Iraq, and Hamas's landslide election victory.

Martin Sorrell, group chief executive of the British-based advertising company WPP, said India had made a strong presentation to leaders, while reports on the strength of the Chinese economy, now in third place globally by some measures, had sharpened the discussions.

"But it's not just India and China," Sorrel said. "In the context of Asia, it's countries such as Pakistan, countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh in the long term, that will become critically important."

Latin America, in contrast, was hardly mentioned in the forum's discussions, he said.

"I've been coming here for 15 years and this was the first time there was so little emphasis on Latin America."

Klaus Schwab, the founder and head of the forum, said in his closing address: "A number of initiatives have been newly taken or enhanced during this meeting that will have a tangible impact."

Iraq

On the last full day of the meeting on Saturday, Britain said it hoped to lower the number of soldiers it has in Iraq, while Bill Clinton, the former US president, said that the US and its supporters should not leave Iraq prematurely.

Britain is due to start scaling
down its presence this year

Iraqi officials also urged more time and patience as they rebuild their country.

Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, said London was looking to withdraw some of its 8500 soldiers later this year, but did not provide a timetable.

"I can't give a date and I can't give numbers, but that's our intention," Straw said.

Hajim al-Hassani, president of the Iraqi National Assembly, said US troops would not leave until the government could ensure its own security.

"There is a formula that has been agreed upon that withdrawal of the troops from Iraq should be a function of building Iraqi security," he said.

Iran

Straw said British officials would hold talks on Monday with a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator before a decision at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria, on 2 February on whether to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear efforts.

"The problem is one of Iran's own making," Straw said. "What we have said is they have to provide objective guarantees that their nuclear capability is solely for civil nuclear power purposes."

Iran resumed nuclear activity in
January against IAEA wishes

Iran provoked an international outcry on 10 January when it ended a two-year freeze and resumed small-scale enrichment of uranium - a process that can be used to produce fuel for generating electricity or material for atomic bombs.

To resume enrichment, Iran had to break the seals of the IAEA, the nuclear monitoring body. Iran says its programme is intended to generate electricity only. The US says it is a ruse to develop nuclear weapons.

In Tehran, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, warned the US and Britain it would respond with missiles if attacked, a clear threat to Israel.

Meeting on the sidelines of the forum, 20 ministers from the World Trade Organisation reaffirmed a timetable to conclude the Doha round of trade liberalisation by the end of 2006.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," said Mark Vaile, Australia's deputy prime minister and trade minister.