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Swiss in search of neutral global aid symbol

Calmy-Rey (right) with Suzanne Mubarak at a meeting in Geneva last year

(Keystone)

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has been holding talks in the Middle East on a new emblem for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

On Saturday she met both her Egyptian counterpart and the president of the country's first aid service, before travelling to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

The Swiss foreign minister's whirlwind three-day tour is part of efforts by Switzerland - the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions - to find a new humanitarian emblem.

Switzerland aims to host a diplomatic conference before the end of the year, which would allow Israel's first-aid service, Magen David Adom, to be globally recognised.

The Israeli society insists on its own emblem – a red Star of David. It refuses to operate under either of the two emblems currently used and recognised by the international movement: the cross and the crescent.

Calmy-Rey held talks with the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Abul Gheit, and Suzanne Mubarak, the president's wife and head of Egypt's Red Crescent Society.

The meeting in Cairo passed off in a constructive atmosphere, said a Swiss foreign ministry spokesman.

On Sunday Calmy-Rey is due in Israel and the Palestinian territories, before travelling to Lebanon on Monday for talks on the issue.

Condemnation of Iran

In a separate development, Switzerland has condemned comments by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling for Israel's annihilation.

Bern said it was unacceptable for a member state of the United Nations to call for the destruction of another member state.

The foreign ministry summoned Iran's ambassador to Switzerland for an explanation.

Many other European countries took similar steps and the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, rebuked Teheran for the comments.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Switzerland is the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions – a series of rules to guarantee human rights during times of conflict.

The conventions and the additional protocols are aimed at protecting civilians, the sick and prisoners of war.

More than 190 countries have ratified the treaties.

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Key facts

The Federation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies comprises 181 national societies.
With the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), it forms the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The movement does not recognise the Israeli first-aid society, Magen David Adom.

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