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Switzerland brings neutrality and solidarity to UN

The Swiss flag flies in front of UN headquarters in New York

(Keystone)

Switzerland intends to speak its mind at the United Nations, according to Swiss President Kaspar Villiger.

Villiger told the UN General Assembly that Switzerland would remain neutral - but act in the interests of global solidarity.

Villiger was speaking shortly after the assembly had confirmed Switzerland as the UN's 190th member. He pledged that Switzerland would play a full part in the world body.

However, as if to demonstrate the independent approach the government intends to adopt, he said that Swiss representatives would work constructively with the UN, "but always in accordance with the wishes of the Swiss people".

His speech was delivered in three of Switzerland's four national languages: French, German and Italian.

Not self-serving

In a message aimed at reassuring the domestic audience as much as informing other member states, Villiger emphasised that Switzerland was joining the UN as a neutral country.

He ruled out any Swiss participation in UN peace enforcement operations, but said the country was ready to help with peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

"Our neutrality is not self-serving. It does not close its eyes when confronted with injustice and poverty. Our neutrality is combined with solidarity, which is equally ingrained in our people," the president said.

In a reference to September 11, he stated that the Swiss stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the world in the fight against terrorism.

"There will never be neutrality were terrorism is concerned," said Villiger.

Values

He suggested that Swiss behaviour at the UN would be driven by principle, not expediency.

"Our work within the UN will be guided by our own central values: peace, democracy, dignity, neutrality and solidarity ... these are also the values of the United Nations," he said.

"Switzerland will always make its voice heard even when this could cause discomfort. When it does so, it will always be in the interest of these values," he added.

In what appeared to be a message directed at the United States, Villiger said the UN was needed now more than ever.

"One country, even a large country, is unable to solve these problems on its own", he said referring to terrorism, conflict and environmental degradation.

swissinfo, Roy Probert in New York

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