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Swiss army faces costly downsizing

GENEVA | Switzerland will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars cutting staff and scrapping equipment as it dramatically downsizes its armed forces, Defense Minister Ueli Maurer said Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Swiss government gave Mr. Maurer a year to come up with a plan to reduce troop numbers from more than 184,000 to 80,000.

The government aims to cap defense spending at $4.6 billion annually.

The downsizing would entail layoffs within the defense department and the army, and a corresponding decommissioning of excess equipment, Mr. Maurer said in an interview with German language newspaper Sonntag.

Switzerland has not been directly involved in an armed conflict since the 19th century.

THE NETHERLANDS

Dutch Antilles dissolves; two countries created

MIAMI | The former Dutch Caribbean colonies of Curacao and St. Maarten became autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Sunday in a change of constitutional status that dissolved the Netherlands Antilles.

The two joined Aruba, which in 1986 already had gained such status that maintains direct ties with the Netherlands, while three other islands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, became autonomous special municipalities of the Netherlands in the dissolution of the 56-year-old Netherlands Antilles territory.

Under the new arrangement, the Dutch government will remain responsible for defense and foreign policy in the new countries, and have initial oversight over Curacao’s finances under a debt relief deal.

GERMANY

Baltic Sea ferry not at risk of sinking

BERLIN | A 650-foot ferry that was set ablaze by an explosion is no longer at immediate risk of sinking in the Baltic Sea, Danish and German officials said Sunday.

Ulrike Windhoevel, spokeswoman for Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, told the Associated Press the fire was under control and there was no imminent danger of the ship breaking up.

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