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Swiss foreign minister discusses terrorist attacks with US ambassador

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger (right) offers his condolences to Mercer Reynolds

(Keystone)

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has been holding talks in Bern with the American ambassador, Mercer Reynolds III, about Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States. Later, the Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger visited the US embassy in Bern to sign a book of condolence.

During his meeting with the ambassador, Deiss offered his condolences on behalf of the Swiss government and reiterated Switzerland's offer of aid to the United States.

"I would have preferred to receive Mr Reynolds in different circumstances," Deiss said.

Reynolds, who took up the post as ambassador just one day before the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC, said he had had "an excellent discussion on security issues".

"I've asked for increased support from Swiss authorities for protection of the US embassy and its offices throughout Switzerland," Reynolds said at the end of the meeting.

Reynolds said Deiss had responded positively to the request and expressed his appreciation for the Swiss government's cooperation.

"I think we all realise that what happened was not just an attack on the United States, but an attack on civilised values everywhere in the world. We're all in this together," the ambassador said.

Responding to the offer of assistance from the Swiss government, Reynolds said he was "grateful" and appreciated the offer of disaster relief teams and blood supplies.

Leuenberger visits embassy

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, visited the American embassy in Bern on Thursday to sign a book of condolence for victims of the attacks.

"I offered my condolences on behalf of all Swiss people and ensured the American people that we are with them and will stay by them," Leuenberger said.

The Swiss cabinet announced on Thursday that Switzerland and other European countries would observe three minutes of silence at noon on Friday in remembrance of the victims of the tragedy and their families. The move is also aimed at showing that Swiss people reject all acts of terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Swiss foreign ministry says it is continuing efforts to locate Swiss citizens who were known to be in the United States on Tuesday.

A foreign ministry official, Walter Thurnherr, said a number of Swiss have come forward and confirmed they are safe.

Authorities cannot confirm the total number of Swiss who remain unaccounted for, but say it may be as many as 300.

Thurnherr said two Swiss passengers travelling on the planes which crashed into the World Trade Centre had died.

Swiss Muslims saddened

Switzerland's Muslim community has expressed its grief following Tuesday's attacks. In a statement released on Thursday, Nadia Karmous, head of the Cultural Association of Muslim Women in Switzerland, said the terrorist raids were "an unprecedented humanitarian and economic catastrophe."

Karmous, who was speaking on behalf of Switzerland's Muslim community, hoped the public would not "amalgamate Muslims, Islam and terrorism" every time a tragedy occurred.

Meanwhile, Switzerland's national airline, Swissair, said on Thursday it would resume flights to the United States and Israel, but cancelled those to Libya and Lebanon.

An airline spokesman confirmed that two of four Swissair aircraft grounded in Canada since Tuesday were returning to Switzerland, while the remaining two were awaiting clearance to leave.

swissinfo with agencies


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