By a margin of 51% to 49%, Swiss voters approved a government proposal to arm peacekeepers, rejecting nationalist claims it will wreck Switzerland's 200-year record of staying out of world conflicts.
Defense Minister Samuel Schmid acknowledged the strong opposition to the measure and stressed that Swiss troops on foreign missions would be armed only to defend themselves.
"In no case will Swiss soldiers in U.N. or OSCE peacekeeping forces take part in combat," Schmid said. Unarmed Swiss forces are now deployed with both the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The government also won approval to allow joint training with North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces.