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Swiss business leaders back UN entry

Swiss business has had a change of heart Keystone

Leading members of Switzerland's business community have repeated their call for the Swiss people to back the country's entry into the United Nations in a nationwide vote next March.

This content was published on November 1, 2001 - 14:48

At a news conference in Bern on Thursday business leaders said the time was ripe for Switzerland to join the UN.

The president of the country's main business confederation, economiesuisse, said the wind had changed since the last UN vote in 1986, when most of the business community came out against the proposal.

Andres Leuenberger said members of economiesuisse now favoured joining the world body. Membership is a long-term investment in Switzerland's future, and the time to join is overdue, he said.

Financial commitment

The UN is playing a key role in resolving regional conflicts and in fighting terrorism, Leuenberger added, and Switzerland needs a full voice in the UN General Assembly. Switzerland has already made a considerable financial commitment to the organisation, he said, and further costs should be limited.

The UBS chairman, Marcel Ospel, said the UN and Switzerland had identical aims that included the protection of human rights, the promotion of democracy and peace.

He said that under its secretary general, Kofi Annan, the UN had adopted a more open attitude toward business.

The Committee said UN membership would not jeopardise Swiss neutrality but that, on the other hand, a "no" vote on March 3 next year would considerably damage the country's image.

Parliament for UN membership

The Swiss government, parliament and most political parties came out in favour of Swiss membership. However, the opponents, mainly from the right-wing People's Party, argue UN membership would compromise Swiss neutrality.

The Swiss electorate in 1986 overwhelmingly rejected UN membership with a 3:1 majority. But Switzerland has been contributing financially to most UN organisations for decades.

The city of Geneva is the UN's European headquarters and hosts institutions, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

swissinfo with agencies

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