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Calmy-Rey "confident" for WTO extension

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey says she is confident that plans to extend the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva will go ahead.

Opponents of the renovation and expansion project, which will enable the WTO to house over 1,100 staff in a single location, are threatening to launch a referendum.

Calmy-Rey said a public debate over the WTO extension was a "positive" step, helping bring the local population closer to issues affecting International Geneva.

"I am confident. The Geneva people will realise that the project is in their interest," she told journalists on Monday in Geneva.

A leftwing political group, A gauche toute!, the rightwing Swiss People's Party and a heritage association, Action Patrimoine Vivant (APV), have declared they will fight the WTO extension. APV says it will launch a referendum if the local government decides to touch the Barton Park next to the WTO headquarters.

"Lake access is guaranteed. A 33-metre-wide passage will exist between the building's security fence and the lake," said Laurent Moutinot, Geneva councillor in charge of institutions, in reply to the group's criticisms.

Not a single tree of value will be affected by the building work as the new wing will be built on an existing car park and parking spaces will be located underground. The security fence will not exceed a height of 1.80 metres and will be discrete, integrated into the landscape, he added.

If the project gets the green light, work at the William Rappard centre should be completed in 2012 at a cost of SFr130 million ($115 million). About SFr60 million will be funded through interest-free loans that the WTO will have to pay back within 50 years. Switzerland will pay the rest of the bill.

swissinfo with agencies


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