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Rütli celebrations set to continue

The Rütli meadow is considered the cradle of Switzerland

(Keystone)

Organisers of the traditional National Day celebrations on the Rütli meadow in central Switzerland say the event should continue, despite disruptions by militants.

The Rütli committee is to put forward proposals aimed at avoiding a repetition of this year's gathering in which right-wing extremists heckled Swiss President Samuel Schmid.

In a statement on Wednesday, the committee said it would do "everything possible" for future August 1 celebrations to be worthy of the name.

And to that end it would cooperate with the government and representatives of cantons Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden and Nidwalden.

The Rütli meadow, which is on the shores of Lake Lucerne, is considered the cradle of Switzerland.

Vulgar behaviour

The committee also condemned the "undemocratic and non-Swiss vulgar behaviour of the extreme-right scene" at the event.

About 700 far-right militants heckled the president during his speech, with rightwing groups accounting for more than a third of those attending the celebrations.

They dominated proceedings by booing and calling Schmid a "traitor". Justice Minister Christoph Blocher was also the target of hecklers at a separate event.

The government later condemned the militants' behaviour, with Schmid saying that it was unworthy of any Swiss.

He added that celebrations at the meadow should have respect for its symbolic value. Legend has it that the founding act of Switzerland took place there in 1291.

The committee is considering several ways to stop the extreme right from causing problems.

Discussions are being held on allowing only invited guests, organising a more modern celebration or maintaining the traditional event in its present form.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss National Day on August 1 was introduced at the end of the 19th century but it only became a national holiday in 1994.

National Day marks the founding of the Swiss Confederation on August 1, 1291.

For the past decade, rightwing extremists have attended celebrations at the Rütli Meadow.

President Samuel Schmid was heckled by these extremists when he referred to the integration of foreigners and the importance of other cultures.

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