Libya lifts visa ban on 25 European nations

TRIPOLI: Libya lifted a visa ban on travelers from 25 European nations after the resolution of a diplomatic row that began with Switzerland.

The Foreign Ministry said Libya scrapped the measure Saturday after the European Union blocked a Swiss proposal for a visa blacklist against nearly 200 senior Libyan officials, including leader Moammar Gadhafi and his family.

The ministry applauded the EU decision, saying "Switzerland has been defeated."

The Libyan ban was issued in February and caused particular concern in European nations with heavy oil investments in the country.

The ban was an escalation of a dispute that began in 2008 when Swiss authorities arrested Gadhafi's son Hannibal and his wife for allegedly beating up their servants in a Geneva hotel.

Geneva authorities dropped their criminal investigation after the two servants received compensation from an undisclosed source and withdrew their complaint.

Moammar Gadhafi forced Swiss Finance Minister and then-President Hans-Rudolf Merz to apologize in Libya last year and agree to possible compensation claims. Libya pulled most of its money out of Swiss vaults.

Libyan authorities also charged two Swiss businessmen with violating residency laws in Libya and illegal business activities. Amnesty International and the United Nations criticized the charges as a form of political revenge.

After several hearings, one of the men was acquitted but the other was sentenced in February to four months in prison.

In response, Switzerland suspended a deal aimed at improving relations and put forward the visa blacklist proposal.