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Government campaigns against arms export ban

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Economics Minister Doris Leuthard has warned against a ban on the export of weapons and other military materiel which comes to a nationwide vote in November.

This content was published on September 29, 2009 - 16:07

She said the initiative by a pacifist organisation could blunt the competitive edge of Swiss industry since technical innovations first used in the military field also serve civilian purposes.

Leuthard said the Swiss armament industry was likely to move abroad if the initiative was approved, putting at risk about 5,100 jobs. Furthermore, the armed forces would become dependent on foreign suppliers.

"As minister in charge of employment issues I cannot accept a loss of so many specialist jobs in times of an economic downturn," she told a news conference on Tuesday.

Last year Switzerland exported military materiel worth a record SFr722 million ($695 million) to more than 70 countries.

On average arms exports vary between SFr200 and SFr400 million annually – or 0.33 per cent of total exports, according to the government.

The necessary signatures for the initiative were handed in by the Group for Switzerland without an Army in 2007. The organisation is backed by a broad coalition of 35 pacifist groups and centre-left political parties.

In 1997 a similar initiative to ban arms exports was rejected at the ballot box by three out of four voters.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch

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