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Social Democrats call crisis talks

The executive of the Social Democratic Party is to meet next week to try resolve a festering dispute that's threatening to split the party.

This content was published on February 25, 2000 - 23:16

The executive of the Social Democratic Party is to meet next week to try resolve a festering dispute that's threatening to split the party.

The special meeting was called by the management committee of the Social Democrats, one of the four parties represented in government.

The party's spokesman, Jean-Philippe Jeannerat, told a news conference in Berne that the decision represented a small, but decisive step towards resolving the crisis.

The party president, Ursula Koch, led the meeting of the management committee. Koch, has come under growing pressure to resign this week, mainly because of her leadership style.

The meeting was also attended by some of her main opponents, the party general-secretary, Jean-Francois Steiert, the deputy-president, Pierre Aeby, and Jacqueline Fehr. The Social Democratic interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, was also present.

Jeannerat said neither Koch's resignation, nor her news conference on Thursday at which she vowed to fight on, were discussed.

He said the committee also decided to set up a working group to come up with proposals to modernise the party's structures as soon as possible.

He said Koch would be on the group, together with the head of the party's parliamentary faction, Franco Cavalli, and Christianne Brunner.

Jeannerat added that the executive would meet on Saturday March 4 to discuss the state of the party, and to decide whether a party conference scheduled for October should be brought forward, or even whether an extraordinary congress should be held.

Meanwhile, the Social Democrats' parliamentary faction has decided not to state its position on the leadership crisis. Two proposed recommendations - that Koch and Steiert should resign or be suspended - were shelved.

Koch has been party president since 1997. Her critics accuse her of failing to fulfil promises made during her campaign for election as party president. She has also been accused of being over-harsh towards people within the party who disagree with her views.

From staff and wire reports

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