Kadhafi gives hope over Swiss detainees
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi assured Hans-Rudolf Merz Thursday he would release two Swiss businessmen from Libya.Geneva -- Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi assured Switzerland's president that he would "commit himself" to securing the return of two Swiss who have been blocked from leaving Libya, Swiss authorities said Thursday.
President Hans-Rudolf Merz met Kadhafi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss the normalisation of Swiss-Libyan relations, which have been strained since the arrest of Kadhafi's son in July 2008.
Merz "called for the immediate return of the two Swiss citizens detained in Libya, which had been promised on numerous occasions," the Swiss Finance Ministry said in a statement.
"The Leader of the Revolution assured President Merz that he would commit himself personally to bringing about their release," it added.
The two Swiss citizens, employed respectively by Swedish-Swiss engineering giant ABB and a small construction firm, have been accused of immigration offences and prevented from leaving the North African country for over a year.
It was one of the retaliation measures taken by Tripoli over the arrest of Hannibal Kadhafi and his wife in a luxury Geneva hotel.
The Kadhafis were arrested after two of their servants alleged they had been mistreated.
They were held for two days before being freed on bail. The complaint against them was dropped after a lawyer said the servants had received compensation.
But the Geneva incident sparked a sequence of retaliatory measures from Tripoli, including a freeze on Swiss business, the withdrawal of Libyan assets from Swiss banks and disruption to oil deliveries.
After a year of failed attempts at normalising relations, Merz apologised in August to the Libyan people over the Geneva incident.
His controversial apology was presented in exchange for the swift return of the two Swiss businessmen.
Following the apology, Swiss authorities said Merz received a "written assurance" that the businessmen, who are staying in the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, would be allowed to leave Libya before the end of August.
However, in early September, Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim denied in an interview that authorities had promised to resolve the dispute over the businessmen by the end of August.
AFP / Expatica