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The week in Switzerland

The Swiss military mission in Kosovo was extended for a further year this week

(Keystone)

The Swiss mission in Kosovo and the country's role in the wider world were two of the main issues on the political agenda in a week when the secretary-general of Nato paid a visit to Berne.

The cabinet decided on Wednesday to extend the mandate of its troops in Kosovo by another year. The Swiss mission will now remain in the Yugoslav province until the end of 2001.

The decision came a day after talks in Berne between the president, Adolf Ogi, and the Austrian defence minister, Herbert Scheibner. The Swiss contingent in Kosovo is under the protection of Austrian soldiers because Swiss law does not allow troops to carry arms abroad.

Swisscoy was first deployed in October 1999 to provide logistical support to the international peacekeeping effort in Kosovo.

Switzerland's role in the Balkans and the wider world was the focus of talks on Thursday between Ogi and the Nato secretary-general, George Robertson. Robertson used the occasion to thank Switzerland for its work in Kosovo and its involvement in the Partnership for Peace programme

Both Ogi and Robertson agreed that Switzerland should play a bigger role in the international arena. But Ogi ruled out Swiss membership of the military alliance.

It was a good week for the finance ministry, which was able to announce that the federal accounts are back in the black. Instead of a projected budget shortfall of SFr1.8 billion ($1 billion), the finance ministry said is was expecting to end the year with a "considerable" surplus. It attributed the turnaround to stronger than expected economic growth.

Swiss banks joined forces with other banks around the world this week in a bid to combat money laundering. Switzerland's UBS and Credit Suisse were among 12 banks to agree on a set of guidelines aimed at setting a global standard. The move came amid growing evidence that banks have failed to prevent an estimated SFr1,074 billion ($590 billion) being laundered annually.

Switzerland's disabled athletes had a successful week at the Sydney Paralympics. By Friday they had chalked up 15 medals - seven gold, two silver and six bronze.

There was also success for the tennis player, Roger Federer, who qualified for the quarter-finals of the Swiss Indoors tournament in Basel. Federer is hoping to become the first Swiss winner of the competition since 1991.

Finally, the argument against allowing people to own dangerous dogs was given greater force this week after a child was savaged by a Rottweiler. The six-year-old boy from canton Thurgau was rushed to hospital after receiving injuries to his face and spinal cord.

by Malcolm Shearmur

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