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Switzerland and Austria stress friendly relations despite protests

Protests have marked a visit to Switzerland by Austria's foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Demostrations were held in the capital, Berne, and security was stepped up at Austrian diplomatic missions.

This content was published on March 8, 2000 - 16:57

Protests have marked a visit to Switzerland by Austria's foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Demostrations were held in the capital, Berne, and security was stepped up at Austrian diplomatic missions.

Ferrero-Waldner met Switzerland's foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, (picutre) at a government villa outside Berne for official talks on bilateral relations and discussions on the new Austrian government coalition, which has been widely criticised for its inclusion of the far-right Freedom Party.

Meanwhile, left wing and civic rights groups are protesting against the Swiss government's decision to receive a member of the government in Vienna.

On Tuesday, the Social Democrats protested in parliament against plans by the government to welcome Ferrero-Waldner today and Austria's new chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel, at the end of the month.

The Social Democrats said the visits would make Switzerland the first country in the world to breach the political isolation of the new government in Vienna. In an appeal to the government, the Social Democrats said Schüssel's coalition, which did not deserve to be given a chance.

They noted that while Austria's 14 European Union partners had imposed a freeze on bilateral ties with Vienna, Switzerland was pressing ahead with plans to welcome Schüssel later this month and Ferrero-Waldner on Wednesday.

A Jewish periodical also delivered a petition against the visit to the Swiss authorities on Tuesday. The petition, signed by 740 people, called on Switzerland to postpone visits by members of Austria's new government.

Ferrero-Waldner's visit to Berne is her first official trip to a western European country. Her first foreign bilateral visit was made to Hungary last month.

From staff and wire reports

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