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Merz upbeat about presidential year

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz has no regrets about his trip to Libya in August and his controversial apology for the detention of Hannibal Gaddafi in Geneva in 2008.

In an interview in Friday's edition of the free newspaper 20 Minuten, he says his attempt to obtain the release of two businessmen held in Libya for more than a year was foiled by the publication of police photos of Hannibal in detention in the Tribune de Genève newspaper.

Hannibal's father, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, had described the publication as an "unbelievable humiliation", when he met Merz in New York in September.

Hannibal and his wife had been held for two days on charges of mistreating two of their servants. The servants later received compensation and the charges were dropped.

In the interview Merz insisted the arrest had been "unnecessary and excessive".

He said he was obliged to go to Tripoli because the foreign ministry's efforts to achieve a solution had not worked. "Someone had to burst the bubble," he said.

The editor of the Tribune de Geneve responded to Merz's accusation by saying he found it "quite surprising" that someone should blame the press for a failure.

He justified the publication of the photos as providing information about the conditions of Hannibal's arrest. "The main responsibiliy for the blunders in this affair lies with the government, whose statements were totally confused," he said.

In another interview, published in Friday's edition of Le Temps newspaper, summing up his year as president Merz said he was "proud" of what he had achieved. He pointed out that Switzerland had been removed from the grey list of tax havens and that it had reached an agreement with the United States which halted legal action against the UBS bank.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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