The Elite Gather in Greece for a Not-So-Secret Meeting

VOULIAGMENI, Greece -- The Astir Palace hotel in this Greek coastal town wasn't open for coffee Friday.

The luxury resort -- 25 miles south of Athens on the Aegean Sea -- normally welcomes guests to use its bars and restaurants, or its private beach. But when a reporter tried to go in for a coffee, a suited security guard barred the way.

"The hotel is closed for a meeting…. A very big meeting," he said.

Greek media, apparently tipped off, were abuzz over the reasons behind the heightened security at the hotel: a gathering of the Bilderberg Group, a secretive annual rendezvous of top politicians and business leaders.

"At the Club of the Strong," said a headline in Greek daily Eleftheros Typos. "Bilderberg: The first violins of capitalism," wrote the Eleftherotypia paper.

Founded half a century ago, the group has no widely known headquarters. No accord is announced at the end of its meetings. And no one is supposed to divulge their presence.

Still, many do let it be known subtly, and past attendees are said to have included Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher.

This time, one confirmed guest is Greek Prime Minster Kostas Karamanlis. "As you know, there are a lot of dignitaries in Athens, and this is a courtesy on behalf of the prime minister," said Chris Valtadoros, his communications adviser.

Others scheduled to attend, according to those in the know, include European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and World Bank President Robert Zoellick. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is expected to attend, as well as Domenico Siniscalco, vice chairman of Morgan Stanley Europe and a former Italian finance minister, and John Elkann, vice chairman of Italian car maker Fiat.

The managers of world capitalism aren't always popular, which is one reason the Group of Seven leaders now meet in out-the-way resorts that are hard for protestors to reach. In Greece, a small nationalist political party, "Laos," planned to demonstrate Saturday outside the hotel.

The public was kept away from the hotel doors. As the same security guard explained later: "The hotel is closed until Monday. ... There's a big wedding."

—Sebastian Moffett and Bob Davis contributed to this article