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Week in Switzerland

Joseph Deiss' Asian tour included a meeting with Thailand's prime minister Chuan Leekpai

(Keystone)

It was a busy week for the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, who chalked up visits to three nations during an official tour of southeast Asia, aimed at strengthening political ties.

The first stop was Thailand, where Deiss was accorded the honour of a meeting with King Bhumibol. He also held talks with political leaders, including the prime minister, Chuan Leekpai, and discussed a joint treaty on the exchange of prisoners with his Thai counterpart, Surin Pitsuan.

From Thailand, Deiss moved on to the Philippines and Bangladesh, which had never previously been visited by a Swiss foreign minister.

During the visit to Manila, the Philippines president, Joseph Estrada, thanked Switzerland for its help in repatriating hundreds of millions of dollars that had been siphoned off into Swiss bank accounts by the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

During the week, Switzerland lifted some of its sanctions against Yugoslavia, following the collapse of the government of Slobodan Milosevic. The lifting of the oil embargo and sanctions on new investments and export credits followed similar moves by the European Union.

However, the government's freeze on bank accounts held by Milosevic and his associates, which are said to contain SFr100 million, remains in place.

Economic links between Switzerland and the New England region of the United States were given a boost on Tuesday, with the official opening of the "Swiss House", a high-tech consulate in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The government said the opening of the consulate - which is billed as the first in the world to be exclusively dedicated to science and research - was a reflection of moves towards a global economy.

In sports, Switzerland's national football team were left pondering how close they had come to an historic win over Slovenia in Wednesday's World Cup qualifying match. But in the end the Swiss side had to settle for a 2-2 draw in Slovenia after the home side deprived the striker, Kubilay Türkyilmaz, of his third goal of the night.

swissinfo with agencies

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