The Swiss government has approved a series of military reforms, including a reduction in personnel on active service.
The reforms will reduce the number of members on active duty from the current level of 360,000 to a maximum of 120,000. This will be achieved in part by releasing older members from their obligation to serve: the age until which a member must serve will also be lowered from 42 to a maximum of 32.
The army will also experiment with further reforms, including a reduction in the length of active service from 300 days to 250. All the reforms are due to come into effect in 2003, provided they are passed by parliament next year. They are expected to reduce the annual costs of the army to SFr4.3 billion.
The reaction to the proposals from political parties has been mixed. The Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats both said they wanted costs cut further. The Radicals welcomed the reforms while the Swiss People's Party said it was pleased the army was to remain a militia-based force, in which every man is obliged to serve.
The long-awaited reforms come after a bitter public dispute between the defence minister, Adolf Ogi, and the economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, over the planned reduction of members on active service.
swissinfo with agencies