Aspen takes international stage during conference | AspenTimes.com

Aspen takes international stage during conference

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen played the role of peaceful oasis this week for a Fortune magazine conference.

As violence raged in Israel, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Israeli Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres sat down at the St. Regis and talked peace.

And as the U.S. Justice Department cranked up an investigation into the accounting practices of Fortune’s parent company, AOL Time Warner, executives and government leaders gathered at the St. Regis to talk about corporate responsibility and the future.

The three-day event also put Aspen into a series of national and international news stories, including live interviews with conference attendees on CNN and CNNfn, which are also owned by AOL Time Warner.

Call it the AOL Time Warner Aspen corporate peace summit.

And like other summits attended by international leaders, security was tight.

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“The different protection details worked well together, and it went very smoothly,” said Aspen Police Department Detective Jim Crowley, who added that passersby would probably not have noticed anything “unless one of the dignitaries was moving. Other than that, it just looked like the hotel was busy.”

From his vantage point, Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said the conference was “mellow.”

“There were corporate guys in shorts and flip flops listening to the king speak,” Braudis said.

For their part, King Abdullah and Deputy Prime Minister Peres did a polite diplomatic duet here pending their scheduled visits today in Washington with President Bush and his senior advisors.

On Tuesday Abdullah told the audience, which included former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, “that it is time to bring justice, peace and hope to the people of Israel and Palestine.”

And he urged President Bush to speed up his three-year time frame to create a Palestinian state, saying “we need to expedite this target date so that the Israeli occupation can end sooner.”

Shortly after the king spoke at the St. Regis, Peres “emphasized the important role played by Jordan and by King Abdullah in the peace process in the region and wished that King Abdullah would continue to play this role,” according to Agence France Presse.

Peres and King Abdullah then met for close to an hour in what was described as a “very warm and frank” meeting between “two old friends,” according to an Israeli spokesperson.

And according to the BBC, the king also met with Clinton and Aspen Skiing Co. owner Lester Crown, who sits on the board of defense contractor General Dynamics and is the chairman of the board of the Aspen Institute.

On Wednesday, Peres opted to answer questions from the audience instead of giving a speech.

He said that Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan and that if Israelis “can live in peace with Jordanians, we can live in peace with Palestinians.” Jordan has a large Palestinian population.

And against the backdrop of another savage bombing in Israel on Wednesday (see story, page 6), Peres did a live interview with CNN from Aspen. “We don’t fight the Palestinian people, we fight the Palestinian terrorists,” he said.

CNN and CNNfn conducted a series of interviews on Tuesday with attendees of the conference, including former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Tom Pickering and computer guru Esther Dyson.

Pickering was asked on Tuesday by CNNfn’s Ali Velshi whether corporate responsibility was a topic of conversation at the Aspen conference. It was the day after a sudden stock market turnaround.

“Well, it’s a topic of conversation for all us here,” Pickering said. “We’re looking at the long-term as well, but I think this is there in their minds. People here are overjoyed by the news yesterday, but obviously watching very carefully, and I think the corporate governance bill has been a topic that was commented upon by President Clinton this morning and by others quite favorably.”

As Pickering spoke, the Justice Department was preparing to announce its probe into a series of unconventional online advertising transactions by AOL, which acquired Time Warner about a year and a half ago.

Also in an interview with CNNfn, Dyson described the Fortune conference as “business people trying to think a little bit more long-term.

“It’s focused on trying to get people away from their day-to-day jobs, which is pretty easy in Aspen, and think a little bit more about the structure of the world and how to change it rather than simply how to exploit it.”

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]

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