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Political peacemaking efforts ahead of party talks

Renewed attempts are being made to end a disruptive row between two of the four parties in the Swiss government, the Social Democrats and the People's Party. Peacemaking efforts, however, suffered a setback over the weekend.

Leaders of two of the government parties, the centre-right Radicals and the Christian Democrats, have been trying to play the role of peace-maker. They are to meet the Social Democrats on Monday and were scheduled to meet the People's Party on Thursday.

They are seeking a reconciliation between the Social Democrats and the People's Party in advance of Friday's meeting, known traditionally as the von Wattenwyl talks, at which party leaders usually try to find a consensus on forthcoming government business.

The Social Democrats decided earlier this year to boycott the preparatory talks that take place ahead of the von Wattenwyl meetings, in protest at an allegation by the People's Party's leading figure, Christoph Blocher, that the Social Democrats had similarities to the Fascists during the second world war. They have demanded he withdraw the allegation - he has refused.

A further trilateral meeting between the two centre-right parties and the People's Party was scheduled for Thursday on the eve of the von Wattenwyl talks, but a People's Party spokesman appeared to rule out such a meeting in a television interview on Saturday.

The People's Party's secretary-general, Jean-Blaise Defago, said his party would not attend Thursday's meeting because such preparatory talks should be attended by all four - and not three - government parties.

He warned that Monday's talks between the three other parties, excluding the People's Party, was a first step towards the break-up of the "magic formula" four-party system of government which has ensured stability in Switzerland since 1959.

swissinfo with agencies

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