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Switzerland "in danger" of losing IMF seat

Switzerland has joined leaders from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a two-day meeting in Istanbul to discuss ways to prevent another financial crisis.

As part of the discussions on Tuesday, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said developing countries should control half of the executive board vote.

That means Switzerland could lose its seat.

Among other changes, the 24-seat executive panel could also shrink to just 20 seats. Europe is a likely target for reductions since the continent currently holds ten of the 24 slots.

Switzerland forged an alliance with Central Asian states to secure a Swiss seat on the board when it joined the IMF in 1992.

Switzerland's representative, Thomas Moser, also speaks for Poland, Serbia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan.

But developing nations have long argued that they should have more say on the board. During the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September, leaders agreed. The revisions should be in place by January 2011.

The United States, Japan, Germany, France and Britain have their own representatives. In the past, Switzerland has been able to justify its place on the board by its thriving financial sector.

"Now that the Swiss financial centre has got into trouble, this argument is weaker," St Gallen University economics professor Heinz Hauser told the Swiss News Agency. "Switzerland's seat is in danger."

Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz remains confident that Switzerland will not lose its seat. Micheline Calmy-Rey, the foreign minister, is on a trip through Central Asia to meet leaders of the nations it represents and shore up support.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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