March 3, 2010 / 9:55 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Libya declares trade embargo against Switzerland

* 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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