Swiss hopes for rapid restitution of Libyan assets

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Switzerland said Wednesday that it hoped that about 650 million francs (568 million euros) worth of blocked Libyan assets could be rapidly handed over to Libyan rebels as they seek to cement their victory in Tripoli.

"In light of recent developments in Libya, we hope that the restitution process can be accelerated," the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"It is very important to see how the UN Security Council will react to these developments and if it would decide to unblock certain assets," it added.

Most of the assets frozen in Switzerland belong to Libyan public companies, and not individuals.

Switzerland ordered a freeze on assets belonging to Moamer Kadhafi's regime in February after he cracked down on opposition protests.

The amount of Libyan assets held in Switzerland was however substantially smaller than in 2007, before the eruption of a bitter diplomatic spat between Bern and Tripoli over the arrest of Kadhafi's son Hannibal in Geneva in July 2008.

Among other measures, the dispute triggered economic sanctions by Libya including the mass withdrawal of Libyan assets from the Alpine country's prized and secretive banking sector.

In 2007, total banking relations with Libya amounted to 5.7 billion francs, while in 2011, it reached just over 600 million francs.

© 2011 AFP

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