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President defends plans to free Libya hostages

President Doris Leuthard has said the Swiss authorities acted correctly in considering plans for a military operation to free two Swiss hostages detained in Libya.

Speaking at a press conference to squash rumours circulating about the planned rescue mission, Leuthard said the foreign and defence ministries had been commissioned to report on the planned mission.

The cabinet discussed the plans on March 22 and concluded that it was “right that the agencies responsible envisaged such action while hostages had been taken”. But the plans were never acted upon.

The cabinet also decided that in the future the departments involved should be informed of such action at an early stage.

The cabinet strongly condemned leaks to the media on the issue. Details about the mission had been classified as secret and so the leaks were a criminal offence, Leuthard said.

Several scenarios involving "exfiltration" have been reported in Swiss newspapers, but none has been confirmed by the government.

They centred on freeing Swiss nationals Max Göldi and Rachid Hamdani. The pair were arrested in Tripoli in July 2008, days after the arrest in Geneva of Hannibal Gaddafi, a son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, and his wife, on charges of abusing their staff.

Göldi and Hamdani were prevented from leaving Libya, abducted and taken to court for visa irregularities. Hamdani was released in February this year, but Göldi had to serve a four-month prison sentence, only returning to Switzerland last week.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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