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Swiss back UN sanctions against North Korea

South Korean protesters denouncing the nuclear test

(Keystone)

Switzerland said on Sunday that it would follow the United Nations Security Council in imposing sanctions on North Korea over its reported nuclear weapons test.

The 15-strong body unanimously approved financial and arms sanctions against the reclusive Communist nation at a meeting in New York on Saturday.

Reacting to the Security Council decision, the Swiss foreign ministry said it stood by an earlier pledge to support any binding sanctions imposed by the UN body.

The Swiss authorities will also have to decide whether to break off ongoing political dialogue between Bern and Pyongyang that has seen four rounds of talks since 2003 on international and bilateral issues. The last meeting took place in the Swiss capital in April.

"It's Swiss practice to constantly evaluate any project or programme, and if necessary adapt it to new circumstances. That would also apply to the political dialogue between Switzerland and North Korea," spokesman Lars Knuchel told swissinfo.

The Security Council resolution demands that North Korea eliminate all its nuclear weapons and return to six-party talks aimed at ending its programme.

It calls on all countries to inspect cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea to prevent any illegal trafficking in weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles.

Nuclear weapons

The measure also bans the import or export of material and equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. It orders all countries to freeze the assets and ban travel for anyone engaged in supporting North Korea's weapons programmes.

North Korea immediately rejected the resolution, and its UN ambassador walked out of the council chamber after accusing its members of a "gangster-like" action which neglected the nuclear threat posed by the United States.

Speaking before the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Swiss ambassador Peter Maurer warned that Pyongyang's claimed nuclear test had not only threatened the security of the region but could start a spiral of events that could get out of control.

Maurer called on North Korea to rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it left in 2003. He added that he hoped a solution to the crisis could be found through negotiations with North and South Korea, China, the US, Russia and Japan.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss military personnel have been stationed on the border between the two Koreas since 1953, as part of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission in Korea (NNSC).

Switzerland has no diplomatic representation in North Korea.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has an office in Pyongyang. Its aid budget for 2006 is SFr5.3 million ($4.1 million).

In May 2003, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey became the first foreign government official to cross the demarcation line between North and South Korea.

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Key facts

In 2005 Switzerland exported goods worth SFr4.5 million to North Korea and imported goods worth SFr1.7 million.
Exports to North Korea rose in the first eight months of 2006 to SFr7.8 million.

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