Bern-Berlin on common ground.

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The German chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, has pledged to support Switzerland's bid to conclude a second set of bilateral treaties with the European Union.

On a visit to Bern, Schroder also said he supported a political solution to a row with Switzerland over noise pollution out of Zurich airport.

He spoke to several cabinet members, including this year's Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin and said it was in Germany's interest to see Switzerland forge closer ties with the EU by the end of this year.

He added that Berlin was willing to help Switzerland overcome remaining obstacles with Brussels.

Switzerland has been negotiating a second series of bilateral accords with the EU, but talks on closer police cooperation and customs fraud have made slow progress.

Couchepin said that Switzerland wanted an existing deal...

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