US ambassador seeks fresh start to ties

The new United States ambassador to Switzerland, Donald Beyer, has said he is hoping for a fresh start in relations between the two countries.

This content was published on September 13, 2009 minutes

"I want to show that it is time for the two countries to put the difficulties they have been confronting behind them," Beyer told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

He defended the recent US probe into tax fraud by American customers at Swiss bank UBS, noting that it was not an attack on Swiss banking secrecy.

He said UBS had "broken American laws and used Swiss banking secrecy ill-advisedly, even though the latter was created for very good reasons, like the protection of the private sector". "For us it was a question of exposing American tax fraudsters without destroying the Swiss financial centre's historic tradition," he told the newspaper.

But Beyer said he foresaw no problems between the two countries on the horizon. He praised Swiss good offices in Iran, noting that "certain information between Washington and Tehran is only transmitted thanks to the Swiss channel", and he singled out Switzerland's "exceptional role" in meditating over Iran's nuclear programme.

He was also impressed that households' CO2 emissions in Switzerland were a third of those produced in the US.

Beyer, the former lieutenant governor of Virginia, was one of several Democratic Party donors to receive diplomatic postings under President Barack Obama's administration. He raised more than $500,000 (SFr519,000) for Obama's presidential bid. As ambassador to Bern he replaced Peter Coneway, a Texas Republican appointed by George W. Bush. and agencies

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