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Muba fair opens amid controvery

Switzerland's largest consumer fair, Muba, has opened its doors in Basel against a background of controversy. An explicit poster campaign (pictured) and the presence of the army sparked off protests even before the doors opened.

Switzerland's largest consumer fair, Muba, has opened its doors in Basel against a background of controversy. An explicit poster campaign(pictured) and the presence of the army sparked off protests even before the doors opened.

A naked, pregnant woman used in the Muba advertising campaign and a shooting simulator of the Swiss Army both divided opinions before the ten-day event, which is expected to attract 400,000 visitors.

Police have stepped up security precautions, fearing protests at the fair on Saturday against the Army.

Responding to the criticism surrounding the poster, which included a protest from the Swiss Catholic Women's League, the president of Basel Fairs, Robert Jeker, said that the organisers had wanted to give Switzerland's oldest fair a new image.

"If we have shocked people, we regret that," he said during the opening ceremony.

The organisers say they have received more positive responses than negative criticism and believe the poster served a useful purpose.

"We are convinced that the aesthetic campaign pleases most potential fair visitors and therefore will have the desired effect," said Muba director Kurt Frischknecht.

The Army's shooting simulator was to have been shown by the Swiss Army at its special exhibition stand but after a storm of protest - centring mainly on the possible negative effects on children - it was withdrawn at the last minute, not without the shaking of some heads.

"This simulator is more than ten years old and it's been shown at fairs before. In fact, 60,000 civilians have practised on it so it's nothing new," said Brigadier Faustus Furrer, project leader of the Army's presence at the fair.

In his speech, Swiss foreign minister Josef Deiss made a call for the Swiss to approve the bilateral accords with the European Union in next month's vote on the issue.

He said it was a tailor-made package bringing concrete progress and pragmatic solutions for Switzerland.

"I think we must move into the 21st century with pride, dynamism and confidence, and take our place in Europe and the world," he said.

The guest country at Muba 2000 is Brazil which wants to show that it's not just a country of samba and football. High-tech firm Embraer is on show to highlight its deal providing Swiss regional carrier Crossair with its new family of jet aircraft.

Many special presentations are being made. Among them is swissinfo.org, a multilingual, multimedia Internet site devoted to Switzerland. swissinfo.org is a product of Swiss Radio International and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation(SRG SSR idée suisse), and provides news, text, radio and television reports in eight languages.

Visitors to the Muba will be able to try out the site at the stand of Swiss-German Television, SF DRS. There are also demonstrations of the WAP mobile service of swissinfo.org, and visitors will also be able to send video messages to friends and family around the world.

Add attractions such as Switzerland's world champion kick-box champion Andy Hug, a show devoted to classical and complementary medicine, an area for modern living and a Business Class for schoolchildren...and you end up with something for everyone. That's MUBA 2000 in Basel.













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