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Libya plays oil card in Swiss dispute

Libya's top energy official has hinted supplies of Libyan oil to Europe could be affected in the current diplomatic row initiated by a dispute with Switzerland.

Shokri Ghanem, the head of Libya's state energy firm NOC and the country's Opec representative, told the Reuters news agency that leading European energy companies have interests in the North African country.

Libya has stopped issuing entry visas to citizens of most European countries in retaliation for Switzerland barring entry to senior Libyans including leader Muammar Gaddafi and members of his family.

"[Europe] should also think of these interests and investments in energy because good relations with Libya would help European companies run their businesses in Libya easily," he said.

Italy has been the European nation most vociferous in calling on Switzerland to resolve the dispute by dropping its visa restrictions.

On Monday, the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said if the Swiss-Libyan dispute was not resolved by April 5, Italy would present a proposal to allow high-ranking Libyans to travel freely in Europe despite Switzerland's blacklist.

Frattini made the statement after a meeting in the Libyan capital with government officials there.

He said the proposal - supported by Spain, Portugal and Malta - would be presented to the European Union foreign ministers on March 22.

The long-running Libyan-Swiss spat began in July 2008 when police in Geneva arrested one of Gaddafi's sons at a luxury lakeside hotel.

The charges, of mistreating two domestic employees, were later dropped but the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi angered Libya, which halted oil exports to Switzerland and withdrew deposits from Swiss banks in protest.

It also detained two Swiss nationals, one of whom – Max Göldi – is currently serving a four-month prison sentence on visa violation charges. and agencies

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