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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swiss apologise to Libya

Published:Aug 21, 2009

Switzerland has presented its official and solemn apologies concerning the unjust arrest

Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz apologised to the Libyan people on Thursday over the arrest in Geneva a year ago of a son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

  • Khadafi’s son held for violence

  • Libya halts oil delivery to Swiss

  • Libya cuts business with Swiss

    "I express to the Libyan people my apologies for the unjust arrest of a Libyan diplomat by Geneva police," Merz said at a joint news conference in Tripoli with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi.

    Hannibal Kadhafi and his pregnant wife were arrested in a luxury Geneva hotel on July 15, 2008 after two servants claimed they had been mistreated.

    The couple were freed after two days in custody on bail of 500,000 Swiss francs (444,000 dollars).

    The complaint was dropped after a lawyer for their servants - a Moroccan and a Tunisian - said they had received compensation.

    In October, Libya responded by suspending oil deliveries to Switzerland, withdrawing assets worth an estimated five billion euros from Swiss banks, ending bilateral cooperation programmes and placing restrictions on Swiss companies.

    Two Swiss businessmen in Libya were also banned from leaving the country.

    Merz said in response to a question that "the Libyans have assured me that they will be allowed to leave before September 1."

    "Today I have fulfilled my mission and achieved my goals of wiping the slate clean of last year’s incident and opening the Libyan market" to Swiss firms once again, Merz said after more than a year of strained relations.

    "It is a satisfying outcome for me."

    The Swiss president also had talks in Tripoli with Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa, a Libyan government official said earlier.

    Mahmudi said Libya and Switzerland would set up a joint committee to examine what he called the "tragic incident" in Geneva.

    "Today we have been able to take a first step towards solving this problem. Switzerland has presented its official and solemn apologies concerning the unjust arrest of the son" of Kadhafi, the Libyan premier said.

    Last month Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said her country was trying to organise a meeting between Merz and the Libyan leader to defuse the crisis.

    For Switzerland the dispute is "a matter of law, while for Libya it is a matter of honour," she said.

    The authorities in Tripoli had sought an apology over the so-called "Hannibal affair," and had also unsuccessfully asked for the people responsible for the arrest of the Kadhafis to be punished.

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