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Bush must mediate in Mideast, Swiss press says

The push for peace must come from the United States, according to the Swiss press

(Keystone Archive)

Editorials in key Swiss newspapers on Tuesday criticised US president George Bush's failure to engage equally with both sides in the Mideast crisis.

A number of editorials implied that US policy appeared to support Israel, rather than taking an impartial approach. The editorials also said the Bush administration should show leadership by helping to find a solution to the current impasse.

"The fortress that Jews and Arabs have built between themselves in their own minds over a hundred years will not be dismantled by third-hand negotiators," the Tages Anzeiger commented on Tuesday.

"What is needed is a long-ranging determination for negotiation, and an open ear for the problems of both sides. Bush is not ready for such a role," the paper said.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung pointed to Washington's lack of a stringent Middle East policy and the dearth of fresh ideas, while the Bern-based Bund newspaper accused Sharon of lacking judgement.

"He is leading his country into a trap, similar to Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, that despite military success, delivered a bitter political defeat," the Bund wrote.

The French-language paper Le Temps questioned Bush's willingness - as leader of the only country capable of forcing a solution - to find a way out of the violence.

Swiss support Israeli withdrawal

Switzerland has backed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to withdraw its forces from Palestinian cities.

The resolution cited cited "grave concern" about the recent wave of suicide bombings in Israel and the assault on the headquarters of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The resolution urged both sides to move toward a "meaningful ceasefire" and appealed for "the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah".

The Swiss Foreign Ministry said it fully supported the resolution and called on Israel to cease military operations in Palestinian-controlled areas.

"We are asking the Israelis to put a stop to the deteriorating situation in which the president of the Palestinian Authority is finding himself," said Muriel Berset Kohen, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry.

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has also called on Israel to pull out of Ramallah after Israeli tanks smashed their way into Arafat's compound, which is just 700 metres away from the Swiss liaison office to the Palestinian Authority.

Pacifists volunteer as "human shields"

Meanwhile, Swiss peace activists have joined a group of international pacifists in the West Bank to express their solidarity with the Palestinians.

The foreign pacifists have vowed to act as a "human shield" around Arafat.

"The mission was to go around towns such as Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Gaza to pay solidarity visits and act directly against the [Israeli] occupation," said Sigfried Ericsson, one of the three Swiss members of the International Solidarity Movement in Bethlehem.

"But now we are acting more as "human shields" and we are trying to negotiate with Israeli soldiers to let Palestinian pass to get through to the ambulances," he told swissinfo.

swissinfo with agencies

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