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Couchepin visits "Switzerland of the Middle East"

Switzerland supports Lebanon in its attempts to achieve national reconciliation, says Swiss President Pascal Couchepin.

Couchepin returned home on Sunday after a three-day visit to Lebanon, which was once nicknamed "the Switzerland of the Middle East".

"If the different communities in Lebanon cannot live together in peace, that would be a major failure for the whole of mankind," Couchepin told his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Sleimane.

Security was extremely tight during the visit, and no specific business was on the agenda. Instead, the trip was an "important symbol" at a crucial point in Lebanon's history, Swiss ambassador François Barras explained after Couchepin's departure.

The government of national unity, formed in July, is looking for ways to end political volatility in Lebanon, which is home to several different religious communities, both Muslim and Christian.

The Lebanese government described Couchepin's visit as "positive". Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said it gave an important signal about the strengthening political relations between the two countries, and also about Lebanon's return to the international scene.


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