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Vietnam opens first Bern embassy

Swiss relations with Vietnam have been cemented by the inauguration of the Southeast Asian country's first embassy to Bern. The new building was formally opened on Wednesday.

Vietnamese interests in Switzerland have up to now been represented by the country's embassy in Germany. But the country's new chargé d'affaires Nguyen Danh Sao said that the transfer to Bern showed Hanoi wanted to strengthen links with Switzerland.

At the height of the Vietnam War in 1972, Switzerland opened an embassy in Hanoi. Most other western countries waited until 1974 before establishing diplomatic ties with the country's new communist rulers.

More recently the Swiss government ministers Arnold Koller and Flavio Cotti visited Vietnam in 1997. Welcoming the new embassy's opening, a foreign ministry spokesman said that relations remain excellent.

Vietnam is a major recipient of development aid, with much of Switzerland's SFr20 million in donations and SFr6 million in credits to Southeast Asia in 1999 going to Hanoi.

Until the 1990s Asian financial crisis Vietnam was rated as one of the region's Tiger economies with the highest potential for foreign investors. The country is working its way out of the slump, undergoing the transition to a market economy.

Its economic efforts were recognised by its former United States enemy, during President Clinton's recent landmark visit.

Around 8,300 Vietnamese citizens live in Switzerland, 3,300 of them refugees. 250 Swiss in turn live in Vietnam.

swissinfo with agencies

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