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Swiss activists call for end to conscription, abolition of army

Agence France Presse reports that an activist group has gathered over 100,000 signatures for an initiative to end military conscription in Switzerland. At present, all able-bodied Swiss men between the ages of 20 and 36 must serve 260 days of military service. The proposal from the Group for a Switzerland without an Army (GSoA) will be put to a nationwide vote.

The GSoA, which was founded in 1982, has declared a goal of "civilizing" Swiss society by abolishing its army.

Later on Thursday, meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is expected to disclose the strategy guiding hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon budget cuts. The New York Times reports that Panetta has concluded that the Army should shrink to 490,000 soldiers over the next decade.

Panetta's British counterpart, Philip Hammond, has pinpointed the debt crisis as a driver in moves to scale down military capability in both the U.K. and the U.S., according to a draft speech handed to The Guardian.

"Without strong economies and stable public finances it is impossible to build and sustain, in the long-term, the military capability required to project power and maintain defence," Hammond is expected to tell the Atlantic Council thinktank during a visit to Washington.