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The week in Switzerland

This was the week in which Holocaust survivors and their heirs finally learned how much they would receive from a $1.25 billion fund set up by Swiss banks to settle claims dating from the Second World War.

The two major banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, agreed the amount with Jewish groups two years ago, but the go-ahead for distribution came only on Wednesday when United States district judge Edward Korman approved a plan to divide out the money.

Payments to holders of Holocaust era accounts, wartime slave labourers and refugees are expected to begin early next year, once an appeal against the distribution plan has been heard.

It was also the week in which Switzerland reaffirmed its cherished and long-held policy of neutrality. At a meeting in Bern, the government said neutrality must be retained, but should be revised in the light of changing times.

Responding to a report on the issue, the cabinet said Switzerland's involvement in peacekeeping operations and future applications to join the United Nations and European Union would not compromise its neutrality.

The position of foreigners in Switzerland came under the microscope again this week, two months after voters rejected a proposal to limit their numbers to 18 per cent of the population.

Speaking in Bern, the justice minister, Ruth Metzler, said urgent measures were needed to make foreigners feel at home in their communities. She presented a series of projects aimed at speeding up the integration process and announced new government money to tackle the problem.

With a fresh outbreak of BSE or Mad Cow Disease in France raising fears among the Swiss public, the federal authorities this week imposed an indefinite ban on imports of breeding cattle. It will remain in place until measures are introduced across Europe to safeguard against the disease.

In a related development, scientists in Zurich said they had discovered a new way to detect the presence of the bovine disease or its human equivalent, new variant CJD. The Zurich University team said they hoped their findings would lead to a treatment for new variant CJD, which has claimed around 80 lives in Britain.

Turning to sport, and in football there was disappointment for Lausanne when they ended up the losing side in a thrilling first leg UEFA Cup encounter with the French team, Nantes. Although Lausanne had a 3-2 lead until halfway through the second half, Nantes fought their way back to a 4-3 win.

Lausanne's hopes now rest with the return match next month on home soil.

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