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Switzerland pledges legal aid over Suharto funds

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, (left) welcomes his Indonesian counterpart, Alwi Shihab


Switzerland says it is ready to give judicial aid to Indonesia to help trace secret bank accounts held by the former president, Suharto.

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, on Wednesday told his Indonesian counterpart, Alwi Shihab, who is on an official visit to Switzerland, that Bern was awaiting further information from Jakarta before acting.

"We still haven't received anything, but my counterpart has assured me that he'll ensure that this procedure is concluded," said Deiss.

Bern first asked for more information over a year ago, but the process was put on hold while the Indonesian government decided whether to put Suharto on trial. According to Swiss law, formal criminal proceedings have to be launched before legal assistance can be granted.

Suharto has been accused of embezzling more than $500 million for his family and friends. Some reports have suggested he may have deposited billions of dollars abroad during his 32 years in power.

Deiss also thanked Shihab for the "speedy release" of the Neue Zurcher Zeitung journalist, Oswald Iten, who was held for two weeks in Irian Jaya during a police crackdown on separatists.

Shihab explained that Iten had been arrested for working illegally in Indonesia.

The two foreign ministers also discussed the impending peace negotiations between Indonesia and Aceh rebels which are due to start in Geneva next Monday. In the last year, at least 800 people have died in the rebels' fight for an independent homeland.

swissinfo with agencies


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