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Libya blames Swiss for escalating row

Libya’s foreign ministry says Switzerland is to blame for escalating a row between the two countries and has issued a list of 27 points to make its case.

Among the most irksome items for the North African regime: photos leaked to the press of leader Moammar Gaddafi’s son, Hannibal, during his brief 2008 arrest in Geneva. Talk of military action to free two Swiss businessmen held in Libya for more than 500 days also made the list.

As a senator in May 2009, Didier Burkhalter, who has since become interior minister, suggested the Swiss military could forcibly liberate the Swiss businessmen.

Libya has accused the men who work for Swiss firms of visa and business violations. A court sentenced them to 16 months in jail. The Swiss widely believe the charges are trumped up and that the businessmen, who are confined to the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, are being punished as proxies for offending the Gaddafi family’s honour.

Hasni Abidi, director of the Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World, saw the four-page post on the Libyan foreign ministry website. He said Tripoli is launching a communications campaign ahead of more court proceedings against the Swiss.

Bern would not comment on the post, but Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has said dealing with Libya has been one of the toughest issues of the year.

The row started on July 15, 2008, when Geneva police arrested Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife on charges – later dropped – that the couple had abused domestic helpers while staying at a luxury hotel in the city. The Gaddafis had come to Geneva for the birth of their child. Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz later apologised for the arrest.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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