The Swiss central bank refused Friday to contribute to the $1.25 billion Holocaust settlement by the country's two biggest commercial banks, saying Switzerland had already met its obligations under international law.
The Swiss National Bank made the decision at a special three-hour meeting of its 40-member board. It has been criticized by Jewish organizations for accepting large quantities of gold from Nazi Germany during World War II.Bank President Hans Meyer said at a news conference the board rejected making a contribution by a large margin, but he declined to give voting figures.
United Bank of Switzerland and Credit Suisse had indicated they hoped SNB would join Swiss companies and institutions to help finance the out-of-court settlement with Holocaust survivors reached last week in New York.
Spokesmen for UBS and Credit Suisse Friday expressed regret over SNB's refusal.
The settlement released all U.S. claims against not only the two banks, but also against the central bank, Swiss government, other com-mercial banks and Swiss industry.
The government welcomed the SNB's decision and said the commercial banks were aware before reaching the settlement that it opposed payments by itself or the central bank.
Although welcoming the accord, the SNB said in a statement that it was not involved in the settlement negotiations.
It "holds the view that its subsequent participation in the costs of the settlement would lend this an official character, which is not in the interests of the country as a whole," the statement said.