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Couchepin denies any rift between France and Switzerland

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, dismisses rumours of a rift in French-Swiss relations Keystone Archive

The Swiss economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has sought to ease tensions between France and Switzerland which have surfaced over the last week.

This content was published on February 24, 2001 - 18:10

In an interview on Swiss radio, Couchepin denied the government was feeling any pressure to act following the publication of a recent French parliamentary report which condemned Switzerland for not doing enough to combat money laundering.

He dismissed the report as having come from a "second-tier minister in France" and rejected the suggestion it would have any effect on bilateral relations.

In the report, a French parliamentary committee condemned Switzerland for not taking a tough enough line against money laundering. It accused the authorities of professing to tackle the problem while maintaining links to international financial crime.

Couchepin also dismissed a letter written this week to the Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, from the EU foreign affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, as "just the opinion of one commissioner".

In the letter, Patten hinted that a delay in opening talks on tax evasion and customs fraud could hold up ratification of seven bilateral accords agreed between Switzerland and the EU.

The seven agreements - governing issues such as transport and the free movement of people - were approved by Swiss voters last May, but some EU states have been slow to give their backing and final ratification is now not expected before the summer.

swissinfo with agencies

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