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"Close exchange" continued on tax policies

After having agreed to relax banking secrecy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein on Tuesday discussed next steps in dealing with their international critics.

"We have talked about how both countries can further develop," said Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey after a meeting with her counterpart, Rita Kieber-Beck.

"As major financial centres, we have long maintained a close exchange," Calmy-Rey said.

The meeting came the same day Economics Minister Doris Leuthard told Swiss radio she had sent a letter of protest to Angel Gurría, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), over the Paris-based organisation's handling of Swiss banking secrecy.

Both Switzerland and Liechtenstein agreed last week to cooperate with the OECD and to disclose more information relating to bank customers suspected of tax evasion. Switzerland reiterated on Tuesday it was ready to negotiate.

"Liechtenstein and Switzerland are negotiating with other countries to move forward," Calmy-Rey said. Bern will have to discuss bilateral tax treaties with over 70 countries.

Calmy-Rey said she wanted foreign governments to show fairness, as Switzerland would find itself in a period of transition.

Calmy-Rey again cited comments of Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister, who said pursuing tax havens like Switzerland was akin to the cavalry chasing American Indians in the Wild West.

The country's ambassador to Bern, Axel Berg, said he had "taken note" of Switzerland's displeasure after having been summoned for a meeting by the foreign ministry on Tuesday.


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