Geneva and Rome are seeking to become the headquarters of a new United Nations agency charged with monitoring certain hazardous chemicals.
Switzerland and Italy say they are the natural choice to become home to the agency's headquarters, since the two UN bodies which currently deal with dangerous chemicals - the UN environmental programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation - are already based in Geneva and Rome.
The Swiss say Geneva is the logical choice for the hazardous chemicals surveillance authority because other UN agencies already based there - such as the World Trade Organisation - would facilitate the agency's work.
The Swiss and Italian cities are already the temporary home of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) convention, which regulates the import and export of chemicals considered to be environmentally dangerous. Signatory countries cannot export these chemicals unless the destination country is informed of the risks involved.
"This convention is important since it guarantees transparency when chemicals are shipped somewhere," says Beat Nobs, of the Federal Environment Office. "According to our experts, there has been a serious lack of checks until now."
Twenty-two pesticides including DDT, and five chemicals, among them asbestos, are listed by the convention.
Switzerland signed the original Rotterdam convention along with 72 other states. The charter will be effective once 50 countries have ratified it.
"Switzerland must be a part of the convention as it is an important chemical producer," Nobs told swissinfo.
A decision on the home for the PIC convention, which will follow the convention's ratification, should be taken by 2003.
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