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Libya to suspend fuel supplies to Switzerland

Published by onlines on July 24, 2008

In retaliation for the arrest of Gaddafi’s son in Geneva

TRIPOLI – Libya on Thursday said it will halt fuel supplies to key oil client Switzerland, in the latest reprisal for last week’s brief detention in Geneva of Hannibal, a son of Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi.

The supplies affected are those transported by ships operated by the Libyan national maritime transport company only, a statement by the company said.

Oil transported by commercial vessels would not be affected.

A joint statement by the national maritime transport company and the port authority threatened further, unspecified reprisals and said Swiss-flagged ships had been banned from entering Libyan ports.

The statement warned of “new escalatory measures” against Switzerland and demanded that Bern “closes within the next few hours the case it fabricated” against Hannibal.

It also demanded that Switzerland apologize for Hannibal’s arrest in a Geneva hotel on July 15 alongside his wife after being accused of assaulting some of their staff. The couple were freed on bail two days later.

The statement was issued as protests organized by the shipping company and the port authority were underway outside the Swiss embassy in Tripoli.

Hannibal, 32, is the official “adviser” of the national maritime transport company which owns 10 vessels and handles nearly all oil exports from Libya.

The head of Swiss Petroleum Association Rolf Hartel told AFP in Geneva that “Libya would be punishing itself” by cutting off supplies to Switzerland, which could easily acquire oil products from other countries within days.

“Economically it would make no sense,” Hartel said on Wednesday, adding that Switzerland had more than four months of reserves of petrol, diesel and fuel oil.

He also noted that one of the two Swiss oil refineries, at Collombey, was owned by Libyan company Tamoil, which also runs 320 filling stations in the country.

Libya’s announcement to halt oil supplies to Switzerland comes as an official Swiss delegation was in Tripoli to try to contain the crisis.

“A diplomatic delegation left Bern for Tripoli on Wednesday to give explanations to the Libyan authorities” on the arrest of Gaddafi’s son, the Swiss foreign ministry said.

The ministry also said that Libya has been retaliating since July 17, the day Hannibal was freed on bail.

Libya’s envoy in Switzerland has been recalled and the Libyan authorities suspended the issuing of visas to Swiss citizens, the ministry said.

Air links between Switzerland and Libya have been reduced and Swiss businesses in Libya have received closure orders, it added.

Libya has also shut the local offices of Swiss food group Nestle and engineering firm ABB and detained officials of both, reports said.

The Swiss ATS news agency said the representative of Nestle in Libya, an Egyptian national, was held for several hours before being released, while ABB said that one of its Swiss employees was being held by the Libyan authorities.

Libyan officials have said that Tripoli was also considering withdrawing Libyan assets from Swiss banks, a cut in diplomatic relations and expelling Swiss companies from the North African nation. (AFP)

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