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Despite tensions, Swiss diplomat remains in Pakistan

Anti-American demonstrations by Islamic groups have been taking place in Pakistan


Although concern about a possible US attack on Afghanistan has increased, and the situation in Pakistan appears more precarious because of the country's cooperation with the United States, Swiss diplomats remain in Islamabad.

The Swiss ambassador to Pakistan, Christian Dunant, told swissinfo that even though people are worried about the situation, he and his Swiss colleagues are not fearful.

"I'm not afraid for myself nor am I afraid for the people around me right now, as nothing extraordinary has happened so far. There is no panic here, only little tension," he told swissinfo.

Although most of his diplomatic colleagues have stayed in the Pakistani capital, many Swiss families have left the country, particularly following the closure of a majority of international and foreign schools, in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. The US is focusing its investigation on Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden, called the prime suspect in the attacks, has resided.

"The people are quite calm and are not really concerned at the moment as nothing special has happened yet," Dunant said.

Swiss influence limited

While US and Pakistani officials are expected to continue holding high level talks throughout the week in Islamabad, Dunant said Switzerland did not really have an important role to play in Pakistan at the moment.

"Switzerland is not a very big country and the influence it has on this part of the world is not, and has never been very big," he said. Dunant said he was focusing on the welfare of Swiss people in Pakistan, and providing aid to refugees from Afghanistan.

"We have a good technical cooperation. We are giving humanitarian aid to the Afghan refugees. That is one thing we can do but we have to be reasonable and understand that the interest here is not the interest of Switzerland," he said.

As Swiss ambassador Dunant was adamant about remaining in Pakistan as long as possible to offer the necessary support to his fellow Swiss and the refugees. However, with regard to possible military action against Afghanistan, he showed some concern.

"It might be difficult for Pakistan if a big crisis happens, especially regarding the economy and the burden of refugees. That is something which worries me on a longer term," he said.


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