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Deiss in India for final leg of Asian tour

Deiss witnessed traditional folklore during his stay in Bhutan earlier this week

(Keystone)

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has arrived in New Delhi to hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Jaswant Singh, in the final leg of his sweep of southern Asian countries.

During his three-day stay in the country, Deiss will meet various Indian government officials and will visit development projects that have been co-funded by Switzerland.

India is among the countries earmarked for financial aid by the Swiss Development Agency, which has pledged SFr31.5 million this year alone.

Deiss also held talks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bhutan earlier this week.

On Friday, he met the Bhutanese king, Jigme Singye Wankchuk, to discuss human rights and national security in the Himalayan nation. Deiss also signed an agreement under which Switzerland will contribute SFr7 million for upgrading the national teaching centre in the town of Paro.

Death penalty

During Deiss' visit to Pakistan earlier this week, he addressed the issues of the death penalty in the country as well as other strict regulations under Islamic law.

As he left for Bhutan, Deiss said he was convinced that the Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, was leading his people towards a modern democracy.

"We feel that Pakistan is moving progressively towards a return to democratic principles," he said, following a series of high-level meetings in Islamabad.

Pakistan is to stage a referendum at the end of the month to decide whether Musharraf should be allowed to stay in power. Deiss promised that Switzerland would reconsider its development aid cooperation with the country following the election results.

In the wake of the nuclear test carried out by Pakistan and India in 1998 Switzerland stopped its aid to both governments. Instead the money went towards projects of non-governmental organisations in those countries.

In addition, the amount of aid to Pakistan was frozen at a level of SFr15 million ($9 million) per year.

Extra funds for Afghanistan

During his brief stop-off in Afghanistan, Deiss announced an additional SFr1 million in humanitarian aid, a pledge welcomed by the interim government in Kabul.

The Swiss government has already this year earmarked SFr20 million for specific humanitarian and development projects in the country.

Deiss also held talks with the Minister for Women's Affairs, Sima Samar, and the president of the Loya Jirga commission which is due to convene in June to select the country's new government.

swissinfo with agencies


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