Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

UN deplores Gaddafi call for anti-Swiss 'jihad'

Col Muammar Gaddafi speaking in Benghazi, 25 Feb 10
Mr Gaddafi spoke from behind bullet-proof glass in Benghazi

A top UN official has condemned as "inadmissible" Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's call for a jihad, or holy war, against Switzerland.

"Such declarations on the part of the head of state are inadmissible in international relations," said Sergei Ordzhonikidze, the UN chief in Geneva.

Col Gaddafi criticised a Swiss vote against the building of minarets and urged Muslims to boycott the country.

Libya and Switzerland are embroiled in a long-running diplomatic row.

The dispute dates back to 2008, when one of Mr Gaddafi's sons was arrested in Geneva, accused of assaulting two servants.

A Swiss foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment on the jihad call.

Hannibal Gaddafi (2005)
Hannibal Gaddafi's arrest in 2008 sparked the diplomatic spat

The Libyan leader made his comments while speaking at a meeting in Benghazi to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

"Let us wage jihad against Switzerland, Zionism and foreign aggression," he said.

"Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against Muhammad, God and the Koran."

Mr Ordzhonikidze, director-general of the UN mission in Geneva, said the UN's security in Switzerland was very professional and well-prepared for any incident. He was responding to questions from journalists about Mr Gaddafi's "jihad" call.

In a referendum last November, 57.5% of Swiss voters approved a constitutional ban on the building of minarets. An appeal against the ban has been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights.

Tit-for-tat quarrel

Earlier this month, Libya stopped issuing visas to citizens from many European nations - those in the Schengen border-free travel zone. That drew condemnation from the European Commission.

Libya's move came after Switzerland allegedly blacklisted 188 high-ranking Libyans, denying them entry permits. The Swiss ban is said to include Mr Gaddafi and his family.

The row began after the arrest of Mr Gaddafi's son Hannibal and his wife, Aline Skaf, in Geneva in July 2008.

They were accused of assaulting two servants while staying at a luxury hotel in the Swiss city, though the charges were later dropped.

Libya retaliated by cancelling oil supplies, withdrawing billions of dollars from Swiss banks, refusing visas to Swiss citizens and recalling some of its diplomats.

In the same month that the Gaddafis were arrested, Libyan authorities detained two Swiss businessmen, in what analysts believe was a retaliatory move.

One was finally allowed to leave the country earlier this week but the second was transferred to jail, where he faces a four-month term on immigration offences.

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