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Gaddafi-Switzerland Row Escalates, US Forced To Apologize To Libya Leader

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The U.S. State Department has been drawn into an international dispute between Libya and Switzerland after Muammar Gaddafi demanded an apology for disparaging remarks by a U.S. official.

The disagreement between Libya and Switzerland began in 2008, when Gaddafi's playboy son, Hannibal, was arrested in Geneva on charges of beating two domestic employees.

While charges were eventually dropped, Gaddafi responded promptly and furiously, cutting oil supplies to Switzerland, withdrawing several billion dollars from Swiss banks, and arresting Swiss citizen's staying in Libya. In retaliation, Switzerland prompted a Europe-wide ban of Gaddafi and 187 other Libyans, despite protests from Italy.

The situation again escalated in 2010, with Gaddafi calling for a jihad against Switzerland after the central European state voted to ban minarets.

"Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against (the Prophet) Muhammad, God and the Koran," the Libyan leader, said in a televised speech, calling the country an "infidel and obscene state which destroys mosque."

While the phrase 'jihad' has come to be associated with armed struggle, Gaddafi's advisors assured Western diplomats that the phrase was intended to suggest an economic boycott.

In February, confusion over the term, and the dispute itself, prompted U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley to say Gaddafi's comments reminded him of Gaddafi's imfamous 2009 speech to the United Nations, which involved "lots of words and lots of papers flying all over the place, not necessarily a lot of sense."

Libya responded furiously, with a top official indicating priority for oil rights may now be given to China and Russia. Crowley was forced to make a public apology.

"I understand that my personal comments were perceived as a personal attack," he told reporters this week. "These comments do not reflect U.S. policy and were not intended to offend. I apologize if they were taken that way."

While Libya today confirmed they had accepted the apology, the wider situation now appears to be in a state of deadlock, with both Libya and Switzerland refusing to back down.

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