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Swiss participation in UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon a possibility

Tense border: Lebanese civilians taunt Israeli troops, one day after they ended their 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon.

(Keystone)

The interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, says Switzerland is ready to consider joining a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, following Israel's withdrawal on Wednesday from the zone it has occupied in southern Lebanon for over 20 years.

Speaking in Jerusalem, Dreifuss said Swiss soldiers could only participate as observers or in providing aid. The UN plans to boost the existing peacekeeping force in the region and deploy it in the region vacated by Israeli troops and their militia allies from the South Lebanon Army.

At the start of her four-day trip, Dreifuss also said she hoped Switzerland would soon be able to strengthen its relations with the Palestinian Authority.

"Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with all countries that assume responsibility over a fixed area," she said.

Dreifuss said the Palestinian Authority still had only limited room for manoeuvre, and pledged Swiss assistance for the future.

"Switzerland wants to help the Palestinian Authority to put permanent structures in place," she added.

After talks with Israeli officials on Thursday, Dreifuss will travel to the West Bank town of Ramallah to meet Palestinian officials at the weekend.

On Sunday, she will receive an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, for her work in support of women and social justice and against racism and anti-semitism. Dreifuss will also meet the Israeli president, Ezer Weizman, and inaugurate a Swiss centre for conflict research.

swissinfo with agencies

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