Switzerland denies desire for bin Laden talks

FM does not rule out talking to Qaeda leader


Switzerland said on Tuesday there was "no question" of talks with the world’s most wanted man Osama bin Laden, after the Swiss foreign minister on Monday questioned what limits should be put on international diplomacy.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry (FDFA) said in a statement on its website that "in practice there is no question of the FDFA proposing a dialogue with Osama Bin Laden."

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey "did not state that she would promote such a dialogue, nor has she proposed such a dialogue," the statement added.

In her speech on Monday to 170 assembled Swiss ambassadors in Bern, Calmy-Rey said they needed to talk to "heavyweight political figures" on the world stage even if they are considered persona non grata by other powers.

"It is important to get away from a Manichean view of the world in black and white, where peoples and countries can only be allies or enemies," she said.

If this view prevailed, Israel would never have held talks with the Palestinians, Nepal would never have talked to Maoist rebels -- and the international community would have boycotted the Olympic Games in Beijing, she said.

"So should we listen to these 'wise figures'? Or should we continue dialogue without discrimination -- even sitting down at the same table as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden?," she asked rhetorically.

"The refusal of dialogue is always a sterile choice," she said, adding that for Switzerland, "the only force we have ever had is that of words."

Calmy-Rey also stressed that dialogue did not mean "accepting the unacceptable," and conceded that it could sometimes lead to tensions and "complex political blockages."