BERN, Switzerland (AP) _ After a campaign that warned of a ``sellout of the homeland,'' Swiss voters rejected a government attempt to make it easier for foreigners to buy vacation homes in Switzerland.

The 54 to 46 percent vote Sunday came as a surprise after a campaign in which liberalization was backed by all parties except the splinter nationalist Swiss Democrats _ which led opposition _ and environmentalist Greens.

The Swiss Democrats welcomed the vote as a criticism of the government's ``much too generous'' policy toward foreigners. Government officials expressed concern that it would continue a cloud over foreign investment.

The vote followed a trend in a series of recent referendums in which German-speaking cantons, or states, have voted in favor of a go-it-alone and sometimes anti-foreign approach to many international issues.

The liberalization, on the other hand, was approved by voters in French-speaking cantons in western Switzerland. They have regularly favored improved ties with Europe and the international community.

Restrictions on real-estate sales were imposed in the early 1970s after a rush of foreign investment in Switzerland. Foreigners only own 5 percent of Swiss land, and the new rules would have raised from 1,400 to 2,000 the number of vacation homes a year that can be sold to non-Swiss.

In recent years, the Swiss electorate has refused to join the European Economic Area, providing peacekeepers for U.N. missions and easing citizenship requirements.

In another Swiss electoral result, government plans to dispose of nuclear waste inside caverns in the Alps received a setback Sunday when voters in the Swiss heartland canton of Nidwalden rejected the idea.

The project still could be completed; the federal government has the final say on nuclear issues.