Clinton meets Swiss foreign minister, discuss banking

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey Geneva  - US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with the Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey in Geneva and discussed the ongoing tax fraud investigation into UBS and the Russia-Georgia conflict.

Calmy-Rey told reporters after the meeting that she said to Clinton that the US should not put more pressure on Switzerland regarding UBS, but that the Swiss would work more closely with Washington to find avenues to share information.

She also confirmed that Switzerland's embassies in Georgia and Russia now housed interest offices of each of those countries. The interest offices started work on Thursday.

Moscow and Tbilisi cut diplomatic ties following the conflict between the countries last summer.

Clinton was also meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the two were set to hold a joint press conference later Friday evening.

On the issue of prisoners now held at Guantanamo Bay, Calmy-Rey said the Swiss were "ready to contribute to a solution" and that they were "now in phase of examining security and judicial aspects."

Earlier, the Swiss government said it would work "to improve cooperation with other countries in the area of tax offences," but that banking secrecy would remain intact.

UBS, the Swiss banking giant, has recently come under fire in a tax investigation in the United States.

Under orders from the Swiss regulatory body, UBS handed over last month some data on clients who allegedly committed tax fraud to US authorities. It also paid a hefty fine of 780 million dollars.

The bank told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that it would not hand over more data owing to Swiss banking secrecy laws. The US is demanding information on 52,000 clients, while the bank is reported to have transferred unspecified data on only a few hundred. dpa




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