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Ogi wants to extend Swiss mission in Kosovo

Adolf Ogi (right) and Herbert Scheibner agreed that their troops should stay in Kosovo


The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, says Swiss troops should remain in Kosovo for an extra year. His comments came after talks in Berne with the Austrian defence minister, Herbert Scheibner.

Ogi and Scheibner agreed at their meeting on Tuesday that the Swiss mission in Kosovo should be extended by a year.

Swiss troops are assisting the international peacekeeping effort in the Yugoslav province, but are doing so under the protection of Austrian soldiers because Swiss law does not allow troops to carry arms abroad.

After the meeting, Ogi said the cabinet would decide on Wednesday whether to extend the troops' mandate.

Austria has already indicated that it will prolong its mission in Kosovo. Scheibner told Ogi that Vienna also wanted to increase its overall humanitarian and peacekeeping role. He said 4,000 troops were permanently available for such missions, and that Vienna would provide another 2,000 for a future European Union security force.

He added that security was a key element of foreign policy, and that Europe could not stand aloof from conflicts, irrespective of where they occurred.

The talks also focused on Swiss-Austrian relations. Scheibner, a member of the far-right Freedom Party, thanked Ogi for Switzerland's support during the recent EU sanctions against Vienna. Berne refused to follow the EU lead in imposing sanctions after the Freedom Party's inclusion in Austria's governing coalition.

swissinfo with agencies

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