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Bank secrecy row claims minister's limousine

The Mercedes-Benz limousine of Defence Minister Ueli Maurer has become the latest casualty of a war of words between Switzerland and Germany.

Maurer, a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, is sacrificing the German-made S500 sedan as a "temporary protest" in favour of a less luxurious French-built Renault or Peugeot people carrier.

Maurer's move, announced on Sunday, was the latest salvo in an exchange between Swiss politicians and Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister, who compared the country to a band of frightened "Indians" running scared from the cavalry in an international row over Switzerland's banking secrecy laws.

The remarks, which Steinbrück's spokesman called "perfectly harmless", resulted in Germany's ambassador to Bern being summoned to meet with foreign ministry officials for the second time.

Swiss parliamentarian Thomas Müller added to the row saying Steinbrück reminded him of the "generation of Germans who marched through the streets in leather coats, boots and armbands".

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