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Groups demand halt to Swiss-Israeli military cooperation

Irene Khan, the general secretary of Amnesty International - one of several groups calling for a moratorium - inspects the damage in Jenin

(Keystone)

Switzerland should stop all military cooperation and arms trade with Israel, a coalition of 50 human rights and welfare groups said on Monday.

The Swiss coalition accused the Israeli military of committing "substantial offences" against human rights and international humanitarian law, and called on Switzerland's cabinet to impose an immediate ban.

The trade was last year worth SFr80 million ($49.34 million). This year, the industry expects to sell SFr100 million in ammunition, SFr45 million in artillery and up to SFr32 million in electronics systems.

Matthias Hui, a spokesman for the Forum for Human Rights in Israel and Palestine, said the cabinet had recently emphasised the need for human rights to be respected in any move towards peace in the Middle East.

The group, which includes political parties, argues this goal can only be achieved if cooperation on arms trade and secret services is suspended.

Destroying good work

Christoph Stückelberger, central secretary for the humanitarian organization "Bread for All" said the Israeli army had systematically destroyed or damaged years of Swiss private and state-funded aid work in Palestine.

In Ramallah during the last four weeks, Stückelberger said eight radio and TV stations, along with 18 non-government organizations, had been damaged.

"We cannot use our left hand to help destroy what our right hand built," Stückelberger said.

The call came amid an ongoing deadlock between the United Nations and Israel over an international fact-finding mission to Jenin - the refugee camp at the center of fierce fighting over recent weeks.

Palestinians have accused Israeli forces of committing massacres, while Israel has raised several objections to the UN mission.

Delays to mission

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is currently negotiating to obtain Israeli approval for the mission following an emergency Security Council session.

The Israeli cabinet issued a statement on Sunday saying conditions had not yet been created to make it "possible to accept the fact-finding committee" into the refugee camp.

The Israeli communications minister, Reuven Rivlin, said the UN inquiry "is out to get us and is likely to smear Israel."

Meanwhile, Swiss team member and former Red Cross chief, Cornelio Sommaruga, would not confirm reports that the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, had told him the mission would be delayed indefinitely.

Other members of the coalition calling for a moratorium include Amnesty International, Bread for All, the Social Democratic Party, The Berne Declaration and the Forum against Racism.

swissinfo with agencies

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