UN says jihad unacceptable

February 26, 2010 12:00 am

, GENEVA, Feb 26 – The United Nations and European Union rallied behind Switzerland on Friday after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi call for jihad against the country, with a top UN official branding the move unacceptable.

Asked by journalists about one state calling for holy war on another, UN Director-General Sergei Ordzhonikidze said: "I believe that such declarations on the part of the head of state are inadmissible in international relations."

"I\’m not even talking about actions," he added.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the spokesman for the EU\’s foreign affairs chief said Gaddafi’s call was "unfortunate."

"If these reports are correct… (they) come at an unfortunate moment when the European Union is working closely with Switzerland trying to reach a diplomatic solution" to a long-running battle between the two countries, said Lutz Guellner, spokesman for EU high representative Catherine Ashton.

France also called Gaddafi’s statement "unacceptable" and urged both countries to settle their differences through diplomacy.

Gaddafi turned up the heat in his country\’s dispute with Switzerland on Thursday, calling for jihad over a recent Swiss ban on the construction of minarets.

"Jihad against Switzerland, against Zionism, against foreign aggression is not terrorism," Gaddafi said in a speech in the city of Benghazi to mark the birthday of the Muslim prophet Mohammed on Friday.

The call marked a new low in Libyan-Swiss relations, which soured in July 2008 when Gaddafi\’s son Hannibal and his wife were arrested and briefly held in Geneva after two domestic workers complained they had mistreated them.

The row escalated when Libya swiftly stopped two Swiss businessmen, Rashid Hamdani and Max Goeldi, from leaving its territory. It deepened again last year when a tentative deal between the two countries fell apart.

Both men were convicted of overstaying their visas and of engaging in illegal business activities.

Hamdani\’s conviction was overturned in January, and he has now returned home, while Goeldi surrendered to authorities this week and is now serving a reduced sentence of four months.

The Libyans and Swiss have been holding talks, with Switzerland seeking Goeldi\’s release, while both countries are imposing visa restrictions on each other\’s nationals.

For the director of the Geneva-based Study and Research Centre for the Arab and Mediterranean World, Hasni Abidi, Gaddafi\’s latest offensive is "bad news for Switzerland."

"This shows that the Libyan colonel is extremely biased against Switzerland and the conservative clan hostile to normalisation with Bern is stronger than the reformers," he told AFP.

He said that more worryingly for the Swiss, the Libyans had toughened their line after Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa had met his Swiss counterpart in Madrid.

This indicated that the meeting in Madrid was "a total fiasco," said Abidi.

"The Swiss must seek another form of management of the crisis," he said.

However, another source who spoke on condition of anonymity pointed out that Gaddafi had earlier also made other threats against Switzerland – such as calling for the dissolution of the Alpine country.

"He\’s not credible," the source said, pointing out that Gaddafi had little sway in the Arab world and among Muslim groups.

"What the consequences of this latest call will be exactly are difficult to assess, but this may not necessary be a negative sign," he said.

Hafid Ouardiri, a former spokesman for the Geneva mosque, said: "He has absolutely no credibility in making this call as he represents only himself, and not even his people, so he has no authority to make such a call."


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