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President promises to protect economy

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz has used his New Year's Day speech to vow to "do all in his power" to boost the economy in 2009.

His watchword will be "trust" for the coming year, he said in the speech on Thursday, adding that he encouraged all Swiss to keep moving forward even if the economy had fallen into a "freezing fog".

He admitted that he did not know if the current situation was just a short-term downturn or a more serious crisis.

"I promise you that whatever the scale of the crisis I will do all that is in my power in order for our economy to continue to evolve as positively as possible," he noted.

He said that even in hard times the Swiss were "hardy", like plants that survive despite being buried under snow. "Spring will come. We know it," he added.

For those undergoing personal or professional difficulties he advised: "Know how to hold your head high in adversity."

He concluded by urging young people to share their fresh ideas and energy with society and for the benefit of the economy.

Merz replaced Pascal Couchepin as the Swiss president on Thursday.

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