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Body promoting Swiss image abroad faces cuts

The House of Representatives has cut subsidies to the government agency charged with improving Switzerland's image abroad. The decision comes as parliament seeks savings to reduce the budget deficit.

The decision to cut funding for "Presence Switzerland" was part of a wide-ranging debate in parliament on Tuesday on next year's federal budget.

The House approved a proposal to reduce the agency's budget by SFr4 million to SFr7.5 million ($4.2 million). However, the Senate is likely to overurn the cutbacks when it debates the issue next week.

Supporters of the cuts in the House of Representatives argued that extra spending for "Presence Switzerland" did not take sufficient account of efforts by other organisations and ambassadors.

The agency was officially launched earlier this month to better promote Switzerland's image abroad. It replaces the Coordination Commission, which has been active for more than 20 years.

The head of Presence Switzerland, Johannes Matyassy, accused the House of Representatives of inconsistency, but expressed confidence that it did not represent a final decision.

The move came during a debate on the overall federal budget for 2001, proposed by the government, which amounts to SFr47 billion.

The House of Representatives approved a budget with a deficit of SFr36 million, whereas the government budget foresees a deficit of SFr58 million.

by Urs Geiser

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