Swiss Government Ready To Test Its Bunker Amid Catcalls Over Cost Of `Classified Facility'

BERN, Switzerland - With the rest of Europe focused on the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War, the Swiss government quietly has prepared itself against attack.

The Cabinet intended to inaugurate its newly built bunker deep in the central Swiss Alps by holding its weekly meeting there yesterday but scrapped the plans after newspapers found out.

Government spokesman Hansruedi Moser said ministers feared a media blitz that would have been incompatible with the bunker's status as a "classified facility." They switched the meeting back to the capital, Bern.

The $150 million facility is meant to shelter the seven-member Cabinet in the event of chemical or nuclear warfare. Authorities approved its construction in 1991 - two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall - and since have faced constant accusations of wasting taxpayers' money.

Fortresses, bunkers and underground supply depots are common in Switzerland's mountains. The Swiss say the vast Alpine defense network helped deter an attack from neighboring Germany in World War II. Critics say the willingness of neutral Switzerland to supply and bankroll the Nazis was more important.

The new government bunker is near the Alpine resort of Kandersteg, 40 miles south of Bern.

"While the government was planning its trip to the bunker, the rest of Europe was not thinking of concrete but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War," the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger commented.

"Government Party for the 10th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall," read a cartoon in the newspaper showing a gaily decorated bunker festooned with the Swiss flag. "Here you can dance the night away. It won't wake the neighbors."