Francophone leaders lavished with Swiss watches, attention

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Forty government leaders and their spouses attending the summit of French language countries in Switzerland this weekend are being pampered with a precious watch and a free treat in a health clinic.

In a break with the tradition of the stately biennial summits of the International Organisation of Francophonie, Swiss authorities have brought in private sponsors to top up their 30 million Swiss franc (22 million euro, 31 million dollar) budget.

As a result, a luxury Swiss watchmaker has crafted 80 special timepieces engraved with the summit logo, which will be offered to the heads of state and government as well as delegation chiefs.

While world affairs are the centre of official business, the spouses will be off on lake steamer cruises and trips to local vineyards in stunning World Heritage scenery as well as an exclusive health clinic specialising in anti-ageing therapy.

"It's something that we always do, such cooperation that is considered normal in Switzerland," explained Johannes Matyassy, chief organiser for the 13th summit in the elegant Swiss lakeside town of Montreux.

Matyassy put the private sector involvement in line with a bid to open up the event to wider partcipation, including a range of public events organised locally such as a "francophone village".

The clinic is keeping mum over what it has in store for spouses.

But it has built its reputation on an "age prevention" therapy invented in 1931 based on injections of cells from young sheep's livers, the marketing chief for La Prairie clinic, Yael Bruigom, told AFP.

The rest of the 3,000 delegates from 70 countries can enjoy a more traditional programme of Swiss excursions, including a trip to the nearby cheese-making Gruyere region and a visit to a chocolate factory.

© 2010 AFP

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