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Nato chief stresses need for greater international cooperation

Nato chief, George Robertson, thanked Switzerland for its role in Kosovo.

(Keystone / EPA Photo / Pool / David Jones / dj / kr)

The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, and Nato's secretary general, George Robertson, have spoken of the need for Switzerland to play a bigger role in the international arena.

The two men were speaking at a symposium in Berne, during an official visit by the Nato chief.

Ogi said the world was "becoming progressively smaller", and that countries had to work together to preserve their common security. He added that, with the end of the Cold War, the goal of a free and democratic Europe "was today a realistic goal".

His words were echoed by Robertson, who spoke of the need for countries to be more engaged in conflict prevention and peacekeeping. He added that engagement had to take place on political, economic and military levels.

Robertson used the occasion to thank Switzerland for its involvement in Kosovo, and for participating in Nato's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, which was created to encourage non-Nato members in Europe to participate in some of its activities.

Switzerland joined the PfP in December 1996 and has a contingent of unarmed troops operating in the Nato-led force in Kosovo. On Wednesday, the government agreed to extend the Swiss troops' mandate in the province by another year.

Robertson said the conflicts in the Balkans highlighted the importance of security in Europe. He said they illustrated that states in the modern world could no longer simply react to crises, but needed to take steps to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

The meeting was also addressed by the former Russian prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, who criticised Nato for its involvement in Kosovo. He said the alliance had failed to solve any of the problems facing the province.

The German defence minister, Rudolf Scharping, who also spoke, countered that "the crime rate in Kosovo was lower than in Moscow".

Robertson was later holding talks with Ogi and the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss. They were expected to discuss planned reforms of the Swiss army, which would drastically cut the number of troops and allow Swiss soldiers to carry weapons on foreign peace missions.

swissinfo with agencies





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