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Petition against planned visit by Austrian Chancellor

The Jewish community in Switzerland has launched a petition calling on the government to delay a planned official visit by the Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel (pictured).

This content was published on February 26, 2000 - 13:19

The Jewish community in Switzerland has launched a petition calling on the government to delay a planned official visit by the Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel (pictured).

The petition was launched in the Jewish weekly, "Israelitisches Wochenblatt". It asks the Swiss authorities to postpone any visit until the new Austrian government, which includes the far right Freedom Party, has shown it can make commitments on human rights and the protection of minorities.

The Swiss government said on Wednesday that Schüssel and the Austrian foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner would be invited to pay an official visit shortly, although no date has yet been set. It followed weeks of uncertainty as to how Switzerland would deal with Austria's new coalition.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland responded by writing to the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, to say that any visit should not take place until the summer at the earliest. The president of the Federation, Rolf Bloch, said it was important to see how the new administration in Vienna would perform.

The organisers of the petitition reportedly believe a delay would show that Switzerland has reconsidered its role in World War Two. At the same time, it would not compromise the country's reputation for neutrality and impartiality.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has condemned the invitation to Vienna, which it says sacrifices Switzerland's honour.

From staff and wire reports

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