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Leuthard to discuss Libya on visit to Spain

Swiss President Doris Leuthard will meet with Spanish leaders for an economic visit in Madrid on Monday and will use the opportunity to discuss Libya.

Leuthard’s trip marks the second time in a week that a top Swiss official has travelled to the Spanish capital to talk about Switzerland’s row with the North African nation.

Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister, met earlier in the week with her Libyan counterpart, Mousa Kousa, in an ongoing attempt to settle differences stemming from the 2008 arrest of one of leader Moammar Gaddafi’s sons in Geneva.

Few details emerged from that meeting and talks continued over the weekend in Berlin, where officials are also keeping mum on what progress has been made.

The Libyans have prevented two Swiss nationals from leaving the country since July 2008. The Libyans recently returned the passport of one of two Swiss but did not grant him an exit visa. The other Swiss is facing four months in jail.

“We worked and are working to find a solution,” Georg Farago, foreign ministry spokesman, said on Sunday. “Switzerland is doing everything in its power to secure the release of the two Swiss held in Libya.”

Spain, which holds the presidency of the European Union, has offered to facilitate the talks since EU nationals are now affected by the spat. Libya stopped issuing visas to people from Europe’s Schengen Zone after Swiss authorities banned visas for some Libyans entering the same 25-country bloc.

Leuthard’s trip to Spain will include meetings with José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain’s prime minister, and King Juan Carlos under the aegis of a trade mission. Leuthard holds Switzerland's economics portfolio and noted that trade with Spain has doubled in volume since 2000.

Leuthard’s office said she plans to thank the king for his services in helping to settle the dispute with Libya. and agencies

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