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Swiss aim to support North African transition

Switzerland is to step up its aid to North Africa and the Middle East in order to support the transition process currently underway in the region.

A foreign ministry statement on Friday said that initially SFr12 million ($12.9 million) would be released to finance programmes and projects as part of emergency aid, and that 14 members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit would be deployed there.

The unit is to set up a programme office in the Libyan city of Benghazi, the stronghold of opposition to the regime of Moammar Gaddafi.

Furthermore the government intends to implement an overall strategy including humanitarian aid, migration, structural reform, economic development and poverty reduction in order to support the transition process. For 2011 and 2012 SFr 20-30 million from the budget of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been earmarked for development cooperation in the southern Mediterranean area.

The government said it was prepared to send an expert to help prepare free elections in Egypt and Tunisia, and also to offer projects to strengthen civil society in those countries.

Having blocked the assets of some political leaders and their entourages, Switzerland is keen to see criminal proceedings rapidly instigated, so that illegally acquired funds may be returned to the countries concerned. It is considering how far it can support these countries in the areas of justice and official legal assistance.

The statement points out that Swiss foreign policy has a constitutional mandate to promote human rights, security and peaceful coexistence.

In addition, Switzerland has a “clear interest in stable and democratic structures” in North Africa and the Middle East, it says.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR