Swiss delegation in US to discuss terrorism

Ruth Metzler spoke with US Attorney-General John Ashcroft about ways of fighting terrorism Keystone Archive

Top Swiss and American officials have concluded a week of talks in the United States over how to fight international terrorism.

This content was published on March 2, 2002 - 12:14

The Swiss Justice Minister, Ruth Metzler, headed the delegation, and was accompanied by the federal prosecutor, Valentin Roschacher and the head of the Federal Office for Justice, Heinrich Koller.

Metzler met US Attorney-General John Ashcroft on Friday, after visiting "Ground Zero" in New York , where the twin towers of the World Trade Center formerly stood. The towers were destroyed in terrorist attacks last September 11.

The Swiss Justice Minister told Ashcroft that it was "essential for Switzerland to prevent terrorist networks from misusing its financial circuits."

"It's important to establish a solid base before the problems arise," Metzler said. "That way, we are ready to react when there's a need for it."

Working group

Members of the delegation, who arrived on Tuesday, said they had proposed creating a working group with their US counterparts, to track the money that funded the September 11 attacks.

"The idea is to have US authorities in our task force in Switzerland and to send Swiss specialists to the US," said Roschacher on Friday. He added that Switzerland has blocked about 42 accounts containing SFr24 million ($14 million).

The Swiss task force, set up on September 15, is sifting through more than 900 leads as part of their investigation into the complex money trail left in the wake of the attacks.

US satisfied with Switzerland

"Several US officials have told us that Switzerland is an example for really good cooperation in the fight against terrorism and its financial ramifications", Hans-Jürg Wiedmer, spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office, told swissinfo.

"This investigation is going to be a long-term one," Wiedmer added. "International cooperation is essential in the fight against terrorism, because no country can face this challenge alone."

by Jeff Nottage and Adam Beaumont

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