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Switzerland opens mission in Iraq

Swiss mission in Baghdad graphic: Nov 2000


Switzerland is stepping up diplomatic relations with Iraq, nine years after its embassy in Baghdad was closed. The government announced it was to open a liaison office for economic and cultural activities.

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, said on Wednesday that the closure of the Swiss embassy in Iraq during the Gulf War had led to a lack of first-hand information about what was going on inside the country.

Deiss said two Swiss diplomats would be stationed in Baghdad to collect information and to monitor the humanitarian and human rights situation.

A spokeswoman for the Swiss foreign ministry, Yasmine Chatila, told swissinfo that there were no plans to send an ambassador to Baghdad.

The new liaison office will also be responsible for representing Swiss economic interests and issuing visas.

The ministry also said Swiss companies exporting food, medicines and other goods to Iraq, as part of a United Nations special programme, were at a disadvantage compared to those in other European countries.

Exports are carried out under the 1995 UN Security Council resolution which lets Baghdad sell oil for humanitarian supplies.

Swiss humanitarian to Iraq for the current year amounts to SFr4 million ($2.2 million). It was channelled through the UN's World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and non-governmental organisations.

Switzerland never severed its diplomatic ties with Iraq, but closed its office for security reasons during the Gulf war.

swissinfo with agencies

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