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Swiss to face pressure over terrorist networks

Switzerland is likely to face more pressure over terrorist funding Keystone Archive

The head of the intelligence service says Switzerland is likely to face increasing pressure to prove it is weeding out terrorist networks.

Hans Wegmüller, who heads the strategic intelligence service, said the United States would probably step up pressure as the search for suspected terrorists progresses in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

“We will have to explain again and again what role certain institutions in Switzerland have played and what activities they have been involved in,” said Hans Wegmüller, who heads the strategic intelligence service.

In interviews published in the newspapers “Le Temps” and the “Aargauer Zeitung” on Monday, Wegmüller referred to a network of suspected Islamic terrorists of Tunisian origin working out of Switzerland.

Not a prime target

Wegmüller reaffirmed that Switzerland was not likely to be prime target for terrorist attacks. But he pointed out that certain groups in the country could have played a part in organising terrorist activities.

He said terrorism posed a different kind of threat, which could partly be countered by secret service operations. He said the Swiss intelligence service could count on resources other countries did not have, because of Switzerland’s good reputation.

However, he dismissed allegations that Switzerland would abuse its position as a promoter of humanitarian traditions or as the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross to track down terrorist suspects.

Balkans and South Africa

One of the focus regions of Switzerland’s secret service activities is the Balkans, because this region is a potential threat for security in Switzerland, said Wegmüller.

He said Switzerland was also interested in playing a role in the exchange of information with other countries.

Wegmüller said confidence-building measures were necessary following allegations that a former head of the Swiss military secret service, Peter Regli, helped South Africa’s former Apartheid regime to acquire chemical and biological weapons.

Wegmüller said Switzerland should take seriously threats of a class action suit over its business dealings with South Africa’s Apartheid regime in the 1980s and 1990s.

Revamped secret service

The Swiss government last year reorganised its military secret service in the wake of a fraud scandal. Wegmüller was appointed to the helm of the revamped service in October 2000.

He replaces Regli, who has retired, but is at the centre of several investigations into alleged links between the secret services of Switzerland and South Africa.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR