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The week in Switzerland

Roland Eberle and Rita Fuhrer are the Swiss People's Party candidates to replace Adolf Ogi

(Keystone)

The contest to find a replacement for the outgoing defence minister, Adolf Ogi, heated up this week when the Swiss People's Party put forward its two official candidates for the vacant seat in the cabinet.

The right-wing parliamentary group put forward the canton Thurgau politician, Roland Eberle, as well as the Zurich parliamentarian, Rita Fuhrer, who is seen as representing the party's hardline faction.

But the party decided not to back the two other candidates on the short-list - Samuel Schmid from canton Bern and Christoffel Brändli from canton Graubünden.

However, both Schmid - who was widely tipped to succeed Ogi - and Brändli could still stand a chance of election when parliament votes on the appointment on December 6. It is possible the three other government parties will band together and choose one of the unofficial candidates.

In other political issues, the Swiss people on Sunday turned down a proposal to slash defence spending. By a two-to-one majority voters rejected a people's initiative put forward by centre-left parties and development groups.

The proposal to cut the army's annual budget of SFr5 billion ($2.75 billion) to just over SFr3 billion over the next 10 years envisaged using some of the money saved for international projects to promote peace and disarmament.

In other votes on Sunday, the people rejected proposals to introduce a flexible retirement age, and to change the health insurance system. But they did vote to approve a new labour statute for civil servants.

Switzerland's wartime policies towards gypsies came in for damning criticism in a new report published on Friday. The independent Bergier commission accused the government of carrying out a systematic policy of expelling gypsies or refusing them entry, without regard for what might happen to them at the hands of the Nazis.

Responding to the report, the government expressed its "profound sympathy" to the gypsy communities and said it was determined never to repeat the same mistakes.

It was a good week for Switzerland's cultural heritage. The United Nations World Heritage Committee voted to add three medieval fortresses in the southern canton of Ticino to its list of World Heritage Sites.

The committee declared the 15th century castles in Bellinzona sites of "outstanding universal value". The decision brings to four the number of World Heritage Sites in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

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