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Alliance backs idea of ban on war materiel

A group of leftwing parties and non-governmental organisations has launched a campaign for a ban on exports of war materiel from Switzerland.

At a news conference in Bern on Thursday, the alliance said it wanted to prevent Swiss arms and munitions killing innocent people.

The electorate will decide on November 29 on the initiative, which calls for a ban and transit of war materiel, with the exception of demining systems and those for civil protection.

The Swiss Interchurch Aid Organisation, the umbrella body of Protestant organisations, says exports of arms and munitions harm Switzerland's development policy.

In particular, it says war materiel is exported to countries in which the organisation is active in development programmes, including Bangladesh, India, Lebanon and Pakistan.

It adds that such exports have a significant impact because financial resources are pumped into the military rather than development, which requires more money for health, education, society and the environment.

At the end of September, Economics Minister Doris Leuthard warned against acceptance of the initiative, arguing that Swiss technical innovation was at stake in addition to the industry's 5,100 jobs.

In 2008 Switzerland exported materiel worth a record SFr722 million ($695 million) to more than 70 countries.

In 1997 a similar initiative to ban arms exports was rejected by three out of four voters. and agencies


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