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Austrian president thanks Switzerland for solidarity

The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi (left), welcomed his Austrian counterpart with full military honours Keystone

The Austrian president, Thomas Klestil, on a visit to Bern, has thanked Switzerland for its messages of sympathy following last weekend's blaze near Kaprun, which claimed the lives of around 160 people.

Klestil was speaking during a one-day official visit to Bern on Monday, which was overshadowed by the tragedy.

Addressing a joint news conference with the Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, Klestil said there were apparently no Swiss among the victims of the fire, which broke out on a funicular train carrying skiers through a mountain tunnel.

For his part, Ogi spoke of Switzerland’s shock and sorrow on hearing the news of the accident.

Klestil used the occasion of the visit to praise relations with Switzerland, which he described as “very friendly”.

“The main reason for this visit is to thank Switzerland for its position during the crisis between Austria and the European Union,” he said, referring to Switzerland’s refusal to join EU sanctions imposed after the far-right Freedom Party was included in the Austrian government.

He added: “Switzerland proved itself a better friend than other countries.”

European and security issues also figured high on the agenda during Klestil’s talks with Ogi and the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss. The two sides discussed their joint involvement in the Kosovo peacekeeping force, and plans to enlarge the European Union.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR