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Switzerland pleased with G-8 outreach talks

Bush and Couchepin met during the first day of G-8 talks in Evian

(Keystone)

The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, has said he is satisfied with the outcome of talks between leaders of the G-8 and developing nations in Evian.

He noted that relations between the United States and France had thawed during the first day of the summit, which kicked off in neighbouring France on Sunday.

"At the beginning of the afternoon, I had the impression that feelings were not so warm between President Bush and President Chirac," Couchepin told swissinfo.

But after some hours, there was a great improvement and at the end of the day, there was a good climate between the two," he added.

Hostages

At a press conference in Lausanne following the discussions, Couchepin told reporters that the G-8 was not "a deciding body, but rather a forum for discussion between world leaders".

He added that he had held talks with the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, concerning the recent earthquake in the country and the hostage situation involving four Swiss tourists, who went missing more than two months ago.

"The Algerian leader believes the hostages are still alive... and he is ready to go down any route to find a peaceful end to this stand-off," Couchepin said.

"Mr Bouteflika hopes that those who are holding the tourists understand that if something bad happens to the hostages, something bad might happen to them too," he added.

Cooperation

Couchepin was also the first of three heads of state - followed by President Bush and his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac - to meet the Chinese president, Hu Jintao.

"President Hu and I discussed Swiss-Chinese scientific cooperation, along with China's relationship with the World Trade Organization," said Couchepin.

He also held talks concerning terrorism and the situation in the Middle East with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

According to the Swiss Foreign Ministry, Couchepin is expected to continue holding discussions with a handful of leaders from developing nations over the next two days.

swissinfo, Anna Nelson in Lausanne

G-8 brief

The meeting between the leaders of the world's seven most industrialised nations and Russia is currently taking place on the shores of Lake Geneva in the French alpine resort of Evian.

On the sidelines of the summit, Switzerland has been hosting discussions between the leaders of 11 developing nations, including influential members of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and other emerging countries.

Couchepin, along with the heads of state from emerging countries, was invited to take part in extended summit talks on Sunday.

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