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Switzerland raises concerns about Zimbabwe

Switzerland and five other countries have raised their concern about violence in Zimbabwe, where landless blacks have occupied land owned by white farmers. Delegations from the six countries met foreign ministry representatives to express their fears.

The Swiss chargé d'affaires, Alexander Wittwer, was accompanied at Tuesday's meeting in Harare by representatives from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Japan.

In a joint statement, the envoys said they were concerned about the attacks on farmers, teachers and health care workers, as well as officials in rural areas and political candidates.

Zimbabwe is due to hold general elections later this month, and the six envoys also "underlined the importance of the government of Zimbabwe's fulfilling its responsibility to create an electoral environment free of violence, intimidation and coercion", the statement said.

About 30 people have been killed in violence related to the occupation of farms and the election campaign. The conduct of the election on June 24 and 25 is seen as crucial to the stability of Zimbabwe and southern Africa.

Although seeking to apply diplomatic pressure on Harare, Switzerland is not for the time being considering any other measures. Wittwer told swissinfo a cut in development aid was not on the cards.

"Not for the time being. It depends on the situation after the elections," he said, adding that reducing Swiss aid was unlikely to have much impact.

"We don't have big bilateral aid projects with Zimbabwe. What we have is special little projects and programmes called micro-financing. This is still going on as this affects mainly people really in need of help. We no longer have the big bilateral projects we had five or six years ago," Wittwer explained.

The European Union, the Southern African Development Association and the Commonwealth are all sending observers to Zimbabwe for the election. Some Swiss are also present.

"We have observers from Switzerland in the country," Wittwer explained. "They are mainly coming from the different Swiss churches. I think we have a dozen of them in the country."

swissinfo with agencies

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