Thursday, October 9, 2008

Switzerland blackmailed again: The unavoidable fickleness that underlines any dealings with Gaddafi


Libya Halts Oil Sales to Switzerland Refiner Tamoil

By Gianluca Baratti

Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Libya halted oil supplies to its Swiss refining unit Tamoil SA, a decision that will cut deliveries to the European country by about 2 million metric tons a year, Switzerland's Oil Association said.

``This is a political decision, not an economic one,'' said Rolf Hartl of Association de L'industrie Petroliere Suisse in a telephone interview today. ``The whole of Tamoil's business in Switzerland is at risk.''

Switzerland will be able to cover its shortfall by buying supplies in the spot market, Hartl said. Tamoil spokesman Laurent Paoliello confirmed the halt in an article carried by the Tribune de Geneve newspaper today. A Tamoil spokeswoman in Geneva referred Bloomberg to the newspaper confirmation, without commenting further.

Libya supplies approximately 20 percent of Switzerland's annual oil demand. Tamoil imports crude into the port of Genoa, Italy, then sends it by pipeline to its 50,000 barrel-a-day Collombey refinery. The company also operates more than 300 gasoline service stations in the country and a heating oil business.

Hannibal Qaddafi, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's youngest son, and his wife were arrested in a Geneva hotel on July 15 after two of their employees filed a complaint accusing them of mistreatment. The couple were detained for two days, then allowed to return to Libya. The servants dropped their charges last month.

Tensions between the two countries had escalated in late July when Libya ordered Swiss companies to close offices in the country. Libya's state-run oil tanker company said July 24 it would stop carrying oil destined for Switzerland, though it later backtracked on the threat.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gianluca Baratti in Madrid

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