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Libya steps up pressure on Switzerland

Libya appears to be ratcheting up the pressure in its diplomatic spat with Switzerland, with plans for a "total economic boycott".

The Libyan government spokesman, Mohamed Baayou, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that the embargo would affect “all economic and commercial exchanges with Switzerland”.

Libya had decided to “adopt other alternatives as far as medicines and medical and industrial equipment imported from Switzerland are concerned,” he said.

The decision was later confirmed in a statement put out by the official Libyan news agency, Jana.

The Swiss foreign ministry had no comment on Wednesday evening.

Libya is a relatively minor partner for Switzerland, accounting for 0.24 per cent of its foreign trade in 2009.

Relations between Bern and Tripoli have been tense since July 2008, when Hannibal Gaddafi, a son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, was detained in Geneva along with his wife, on charges of mistreating two of their servants.

The charges were dropped after the servants received compensation, but Libya embarked on a long series of measures, mainly economic, against Switzerland. Trade in both directions was sharply down in 2009.

A Swiss businessman, Max Göldi, is currently in jail in Tripoli, having been found guilty of visa violations.

The European Union has recently become involved in the dispute, and various signs have raised hopes that Göldi may soon be freed.

Earlier on Wednesday, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa told journalists that the crisis with Switzerland "was close to a solution".

However, contradictory messages have been coming out of Tripoli, and more countries are apparently being drawn in. Last week Gaddafi called for a “holy war” against Switzerland. He said then that Muslims should boycott Swiss products.

This call met widespread international condemnation. The Libyan foreign ministry summoned the United States ambassador on Wednesday to demand an apology for satirical remarks about Gaddafi made by a top US State Department official in response to the "jihad" call.

Without an apology, the matter would have “negative consequences on political and economic relations between the two countries,” Jana said.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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