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Ogi holds talks with Australian PM

The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, has been holding talks with the Australian prime minister, John Howard, as the Olympics get underway in Sydney.

This content was published on September 15, 2000 - 10:27

Their discussions focused on last year's canyoning accident in Switzerland, in which 13 Australians died. Ogi's spokesman, Thomas Helbing, said the Swiss president had explained the safety measures governing extreme sports in Switzerland to the Australian premier.

He said Howard had thanked Ogi for Switzerland's help and support in the aftermath of the tragedy. The 13 Australians were among 21 people killed in a flash flood while canyoning in the Bernese Oberland region in July 1999.

The issue of Australia's treatment of Aboriginals did not come up, but Howard expressed interest in Switzerland's repatriation programme for refugees and asylum seekers.

In recent months, the Swiss government has forcibly repatriated some 4,000 Kosovars, as well as asylum seekers from Sri Lanka and Kurds from Turkey and northern Iraq.

Ogi is only the second Swiss president to hold bilateral talks with an Australian prime minister, after Jean-Pascal Delamuraz in 1988. He has also been meeting the country's Governor General, Sir William Deane.

On Saturday, Ogi is holding talks with the Australian defence minister, John Moore, and the sports minister, Jackie Kelly.

Howard brought Ogi up-to-date with about the security situation in southeast Asia, and the state of the Australian economy following the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s.

Ogi also told Howard that Switzerland would be an ideal place for the headquarters of the Convention banning biological weapons.

swissinfo with agencies

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