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The two nations have been engaged in tit-for-tat arrests and sanctions in a dispute dating back to 2008 that has become a concern across Europe. But this is the first time the Libyan has called for jihad, a substantial heightening of the rhetor
"Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against [the prophet] Mohammad, and God and the Koran," he told a meeting in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
"The masses of Muslims must go to all airports in the Islamic world and prevent any Swiss plane landing, to all harbors and prevent any Swiss ships docking, inspect all shops and markets to stop any Swiss goods being sold."
Later in his address, Qaddafi distinguished his proposed holy struggle from Al-Qaeda-style terrorism, saying: "There is a big difference between terrorism and jihad which is a right to armed struggle."
The unlikely spat between the two nations dates back to the 2008 arrest in Geneva of Qaddafi's son Hannibal and his wife, Aline Skaf. (The Monitor reported on that here.) They were accused of assaulting two servants while staying at a luxury hotel, though the charges were later dropped.
That arrest was followed by a series of retaliatory measures on both sides, and a downward spiral of recriminations, the BBC said.
Libya retaliated by canceling 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 Qaddafis were arrested, Libyan authorities detained two Swiss businessmen, in what analysts believe was a retaliatory move.
Switzerland then banned 188 high-level Libyans, reportedly including Qaddafi, from entering the country; Libya in turn halted visas for citizens from several European nations.
Qaddafi's remarks come just as some European diplomats were privately expressing optimism. Swissinfo.ch, a Swiss news website, on Thursday reported anonymous diplomats saying that a jailed Swiss businessman in Tripoli may be released before the end of his four-month sentence.
The diplomat said that attempts to mediate between Switzerland and Libya "are beginning to bear fruit."
The commentator said Switzerland had dragged other European countries into the bilateral dispute, since Libyans on Switzerland's blacklist cannot apply for a so-called "Schengen" visa, which can be used to enter 25 European countries.
The Swiss action means that no Schengen country, can issue full Schengen visas to the Libyans on the blacklist.
By doing so, the government of Switzerland dragged the whole of the EU countries into unnecessary dispute with an ever friendly Libya where these Europeans are finding ample business opportunities.
... Surely I can’t be alone in finding Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi’s declaration of war on Switzerland ... well, I’m sorry, it’s just very, very funny. Perhaps it’s because he’s calling for jihad against the land-locked and famously neutral Swiss. Perhaps it’s the vision of trainee terrorists in Afghanistan making timing-devices with cuckoo clocks. Maybe it’s the thought that explosives could be concealed in the holes in Emmantal cheese.