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War of words with Germany continues

Germany's finance minister on Wednesday rejected Swiss accusations that he had shown disrespect in his comments over bank secrecy.

Peer Steinbrück's spokesman, Torsten Albig, told journalists that the minister's comparison of Switzerland with a band of Indians frightened by the threat of the cavalry was a "perfectly harmless" image.

"We see that you are sensitive even to harmless symbols," Albig said. "Perhaps you are uneasy at being outside OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) rules. We can understand that."

Steinbrück made his comments in response to Switzerland's decision announced last week to be more transparent over its banking laws and come into line with the standards set by the OECD.

Germany's ambassador to Bern was summoned to the Swiss foreign ministry on Tuesday to hear Switzerland's anger at Steinbrück's remarks, which it described as "unacceptable".

Meanwhile, Swiss parliamentarian Thomas Müller of the centre-right Christian Democratic Party said Steinbrück reminded him of the "generation of Germans who marched through the streets in leather coats, boots and armbands".

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