UPDATE 1-Libya declares trade embargo against Switzerland

Wed Mar 3, 2010 4:52pm EST

Related Topics

* Libya slaps embargo on Switzerland

* Move comes after Gaddafi's Jihad call

* Row comes on back of spat with U.S.

(Adds detail, background)

By Salah Sarrar

TRIPOLI, March 3 (Reuters) - Libya declared a trade and economic embargo of Switzerland on Wednesday, a week after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's call for a jihad, or armed struggle, against the European state.

The announcement, in a statement reported by the state news agency Jana, marked an escalation of a long-running row between Libya and Switzerland.

It also came after Tripoli warned that trade ties with the United States could suffer for caustic comments a U.S. official made about Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Libya's spat with Switzerland began in July 2008 when police in Geneva arrested Gaddafi's son Hannibal on charges -- later dropped -- of mistreating two domestic employees.

"The General People's Committee (government) has decided on an economic and trade embargo of the Swiss state involving the public and private sectors," the government said in the statement.

"The decision came in answer to the call of the brother Revolution leader (Gaddafi)," it said, adding that Libya would find alternatives for its imports of medicine, medical supplies and equipment from Switzerland.

The statement suggested Libya also had scrapped "electricity projects and other" activities by unspecified Swiss firms.

A spokesman for the Swiss foreign ministry declined to comment on the Libyan move.

Swiss exports to Libya stood at 156.2 million Swiss francs ($145.7 million) in 2009, or 0.08 percent of all Swiss exports, the website of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) showed.

Switzerland imported goods worth 717.6 million francs from Libya, mostly crude oil, accounting for 0.42 percent of Swiss imports. In 2009, supply from Libya still accounted for some 30 percent of all Swiss oil imports.

On February 25, Gaddafi called for a "jihad" against Switzerland, branding it an infidel state that was destroying mosques.

"Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against (the Prophet) Mohammad, God and the Koran," Gaddafi said.

Swiss nationals voted 57.5 percent in favour of the minaret ban in a November referendum backed by the right-wing Swiss People's Party.

Gaddafi's son was released shortly after his Geneva arrest, but Libya cut oil supplies to Switzerland, withdrew billions of dollars from Swiss bank accounts and arrested two Swiss businessmen working in the North African country.

One businessman has been released but the other was forced this week to leave the Swiss embassy in Tripoli and go to prison to serve a four-month sentence, apparently avoiding a major confrontation.

Libya insists the Geneva arrest and the case of the two businessmen are not linked.

The row with Switzerland spilled over onto Libya's ties with the United States after Libya's Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. envoy to warn that ties will suffer if Washington does not apologise for comments a U.S. official made about Gaddafi.

The Libyan Foreign Ministry said the remarks were ill informed and warned that if no apology was forthcoming, "that would have a negative impact on political and economic relations", the state-run Jana news agency reported.

Tripoli appeared to have been angered by remarks U.S. Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley made about Gaddafi's speech calling for the "jihad" against Switzerland.

(Writing by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (1)
ALFA wrote:
The American Libyan Freedom Alliance (ALFA) was founded in September, 2003, and registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our primary mission is to promote human rights and democracy in Libya through advocacy and education. Since ALFA’s inception, we have undertaken several activities, and held conferences to bring attention to serious violations of human rights in Libya, under the Gaddafi regime.

We have been following the saga of the reoccurring diplomatic spat between democratic Switzerland and the Gaddafi family and his autocratic regime, following the arrest of his son Hannibal and daughter in law in July 2008 for abusing two of their house servants. Gaddafi’s latest verbal assault against Switzerland and his declaration of “Jihad” is driven by personal, ignorant vendetta rather than any other considerations. Although Gaddafi has attempted to convince his audience (mostly comprised of his security agents, and rent crowds) that his irresponsible threats were consistent with Islamic tradition; however, all those with a semblance of knowledge of Islam and Gaddafi know otherwise. This episode can only prove that Gaddafi is an irresponsible, heretic, cruel tyrant who has no qualms about using religion to carry out his terroristic agendas, and should not be treated as a leader of a country, but rather a criminal Mafia Don, that he is.

Gaddafi has altered the Islamic Calendar and imposed his own version upon Libya; sought to re-write verses of the Koran, and had attempted to replace altogether by his twisted thoughts in his Green Book; spoke in derogatory terms of Prophet Mohamed on numerous occasions. Although Gaddafi has a long history of irrational and frequently bizarre behavior, most nations were willing to look the other way, in their attempts to secure energy resources at favorable rates. His latest speech on February 25 had puzzled many observers as they attempted to see any rationale behind it. Of course, Gaddafi’s ramblings, such as the one exhibited during his recent UN visit rarely indicate any logic or rationality, and those who seek such attributes are more likely to get lost in the twists and turns of a mind of mad man.

For decades he has been L’Enfant terrible of international relations and the godfather of terrorists the world over. On his orders his agents had blown up the PAN AM flight 103 in 1988 over Lockerbie, and UTA flight 772 in 1989 over Niger, and had bombed the La Belle disco in Berlin in 1986. One might ask how the Libyan people would react to Gaddafi’s latest declaration of war on Switzerland. Libyans are the primary victims of Gaddafi’s violence, and have suffered tremendously under his authoritarian rule. Gaddafi has waged many unjustifiable wars in their name; massacred 1200 political detainees at Abuslim Prison in 1996; shot down a Libyan airliner flight 1103 over Tripoli airport, killing all its passengers. Libyans despise Gaddafi and all those who stand by him for their own selfish desires, and applaud those who stand by their principles and ideals. Anti-Gaddafi Libyans everywhere, laud Switzerland’s firm stand against the despicable tyrant attempt at blackmail and threats of force and terrorism, and look to the day when their nightmare of 40 years (Gaddafi’s rule) ends.

Mohamed Bugaighis, Ph.D.
Chairman, American Libyan Freedom Alliance (ALFA)

Mar 03, 2010 5:10pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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