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Defence minister describes army vision

The new defence minister, Ueli Maurer, says he will do all he can to prevent moves towards creating a professional army in Switzerland.

He told a meeting on Friday of the People's Party, which he is a member, that he also opposed calls to take soldiers' weapons from them when they are not on military service. He described the tradition of holding weapons as the expression of a freedom-loving citizen state.

At the same time, he called for more "sobriety" in analysing potential threats to Switzerland, and criticised previous policies for making Switzerland's security dependent on cooperation with others.

"Anyone who does not take responsibility for their own security will lose their sovereignty," he warned.

He said the only acceptable use of Swiss troops was to prevent threats to Swiss freedom, in whatever form they might come.

Maurer succeeded Samuel Schmid as defence minister on January 1. Schmid, originally also a People's Party member, had been widely criticised by the party over his defence policies.

Switzerland has a militia army. All male citizens are liable to perform army service. After an initial training period, they serve a set number of weeks per year until they have served the required number of days. Traditionally they have been expected to keep their service weapons at home.


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