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Swiss cabinet cancels bunker meeting after cover blown

(AP) -- With the rest of Europe focussed on the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War, the Swiss government has been quietly preparing itself against attack.

This content was published on November 10, 1999 - 17:07

(AP) -- With the rest of Europe focussed on the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War, the Swiss government has been quietly preparing itself against attack.

The cabinet intended to inaugurate its newly built bunker deep in the Swiss Alps by holding its weekly meeting there Wednesday, but scrapped the plans at the last minute after newspapers found out.

Government spokesman Hansruedi Moser said ministers feared a media scrum, which would have been incompatible with the secret bunker's status as a "classified facility" and so switched the meeting back to the capital, Berne.

The SFr235 million ($152 million) facility is meant to shelter the seven-member cabinet in the event of chemical or nuclear warfare. Authorities approved its construction in 1991 -- two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall -- and have since faced constant accusations of wasting taxpayers' money.

Fortresses, bunkers and underground supply depots are common in neutral Switzerland's mountains. The Swiss say the vast Alpine defence network played a vital role in deterring an attack from neighbouring Germany in World War II. Critics say the willingness of neutral Switzerland to supply and bankroll the Nazis was more important.

The new government bunker is situated near the Alpine resort of Kandersteg, some 64 kilometers (40 miles) south of Berne. The cabinet had planned to travel there by bus, said the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.

"While the government was planning its trip to the bunker, the rest of Europe was not thinking of concrete but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War," commented the newspaper.

"Government Party for the 10th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall," read a cartoon in the newspaper in front of a gaily decorated bunker festooned with the Swiss flag. "Here you can dance the night away. It won't wake the neighbours."

The Tages-Anzeiger added that the bunker meeting was called at the initiative of Social Democratic President Ruth Dreifuss, who it said was reluctant to waste government time with a visit to the new facility.

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