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Shadowy group meets amid secrecy in Ottawa
A shadowy group of world leaders and decision makers are meeting in Ottawa this weekend, cloaked in a blanket of security and secrecy that has conspiracy theorists' websites working overtime.
Considered one of the world's most powerful and secret societies, the Bilderberg group's annual meeting was scheduled to be attended by about 130 people at the Brook Street Resort.
The guest list, according to an unsigned press release obtained by The Canadian Press, includes the likes of David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Holland's Queen Beatrix, and New York Gov. George Pataki.
And the Canadian complement includes Indigo books CEO Heather Reisman and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna.
British prime ministers Tony Blair has spoken to the group in the past, as have former Canadian PMs Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien. Stephen Harper attended in 2003, when he was Opposition Leader.
Conspiracy theorists maintain the group has played a key role in world events, allegedly orchestrating the move to a common European currency and getting Bill Clinton elected after he agreed to sign onto NAFTA. And in Yugoslavia, Serbs have blamed Bilderberg for starting the war that led to the downfall of former dictator Slobodan Milosevic.
And according to the release, this year's group will discuss high oil prices and the best way to deal with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But beyond the press release -- which was tantamount to transparency by Bilderberg standards -- there is little indication about what will take place within the hotel.
Journalists are banned from the proceedings, except in special cases, and attendees never speak about what took place inside the meetings.
Other guests at the Ottawa hotel were asked to check-out before Thursday, cars left in the parking lot will be towed, and members of the hotel gym were told it would be inaccessible for four days.
On Thursday, this year's guests began arriving at the suburban Ottawa location.
They came in black limousines and sedans with darkly tinted windows, surrounded by burly security guards and passing through a security checkpoint a half-kilometre away from the hotel.
Even uniformed Ottawa police were required to show identification to private security personnel before passing through the gates.
The Bilderberg group has been surrounded in high level secrecy since it was established by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1954.
The group, which is known by the name of the Dutch hotel where the first conference was held, was originally formed with the goal of establishing better cooperation and understanding between the U.S. and Europe.
There are no real members of the group. Instead, a secret steering committee sends out invitations to mainly business and political leaders each year.
The group has headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, at a building where phone calls are met by a recorded voice with instructions to leave a message, and calls are reportedly never returned.
Critics say the group is sinister and elitist, and that it operates entirely through self interest.
If the group's motives are legitimate, they ask, why keep their meetings so secret?
The group, however, claims secrecy is necessary in order to stimulate discussions.
"The meeting is private to encourage frank and open discussion." said the press release.
"There will be no press conference."
Over the past five years, the group's annual meetings have been held in the following locations:
2000 (June 1-3) Brussels, Belgium
2001 (May 24-27) Gothenburg, Sweden
2002 (May 30-June 2) Chantilly,VA, United States
2003 (May 15-18) in Versailles, France
2004 (June 3-6) in Stresa, Italy
2005 (May 5-8) Rottach-Egern, Germany
With files from The Canadian Press