Swiss defeat citizenship law

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Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected an anti-immigrant initiative that would have made it harder for foreigners to gain citizenship, according to referendum results released yesterday.

All but one of 26 Swiss cantons rejected the initiative by the nationalistic Swiss People's Party, while in the overall population 63.8 per cent voted 'no', according to official results.

The initiative was aimed at overturning a Supreme Court ruling that barred the widely denounced practice in some Swiss communities of subjecting citizenship applications to a popular vote.

Swiss President Pascal Couchepin welcomed the result.

"The people clearly said: 'we don't want xenophobia and we want direct democracy to respect basic rights,'" Couchepin said on Swiss television SF.