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Libya row "concerns" US

The United States ambassador to Bern says the American government is "concerned" with Switzerland's ongoing row with Libya, while a Muslim bloc has offered to help.

Ambassador Donald Beyer said in an interview on Tuesday with the Südostschweiz newspaper that the US was following the case of two missing Swiss businessmen closely and "would welcome their return".

"We view the situation of the two Swiss citizens with concern from a humanitarian perspective and look forward to a satisfactory resolution of the issue," the US embassy in Bern confirmed on Tuesday morning.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has accused the Libyan authorities of kidnapping the businessmen who are being held in an undisclosed location and have been unable to leave the country for more than a year.

Beyer stopped short of offering US assistance in the matter, but the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has said it would be willing to mediate if both sides requested it.

Babacar Ba, OIC ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told Swiss radio that the group that represents Muslims from 57 states has worked in the past to solve conflicts among its members and could appoint a mediator to help with the Libyan crisis.

Calmy-Rey would not comment on the offer but has said that previous attempts at third-party negotiations have been unsuccessful. The Libyans have said the matter must be dealt with bilaterally.

Switzerland and Libya have been at odds since the July 2008 arrest of one of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's sons, Hannibal, in Geneva. Libya cut flights, withdrew its assets and has not allowed two Swiss nationals to leave the country.

Switzerland eventually apologised for the arrest and agreed to normalise relations but the deadline for doing so has elapsed without success.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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